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Fire safety grant brings free smoke alarms to county

No charge to city residents

The city of Bingen is participating in a project that may literally be a lifesaver for some: the Bingen City Council has drafted a letter of support for a plan to distribute smoke detectors, at no charge, to residents of Bingen, White Salmon, and Goldendale.

Working with the Klickitat County Health Department, Bingen has sent a letter to the Washington Department of Health, asking to be included in the "Fire Safe Families Project," which will secure an award of 300 lithium smoke detectors -- with a total value of $3,000 -- for distribution throughout the county.

The program is designed to focus on getting alarms into the hands of people who currently don't have them. The Washington Department of Health recommends that the alarms go to "high-risk" populations in the community, including low-income families, the elderly, mobile home residents, the disabled, and "English as a second-language" residents.

"For those in our community who do not have working smoke alarms, this award will be very helpful and potentially life-saving," explained Bingen City Administrator Jan Brending in a letter to Mary Borges of the Washington Department of Health in Olympia.

In the county's application for the smoke detectors, Larry Gourley, assessment coordinator for the Klickitat County Health Department, pointed out that recent census results helped make the case for the smoke alarms.

"There are several reasons why we should be selected for the project," wrote Gourley in the county's "Fire Safe Families" application package. "The 2000 census stated that while less than five percent of homes statewide were heated with wood, nearly a quarter (22.4 percent) of Klickitat County homes relied on wood as the primary source of heat, with the attendant dangers of chimney fires and the like. Recent data also has consistently indicated that a higher percentage of residents in Klickitat County smoke, as compared to state or national averages. 2005 data indicates that 21.8 percent of all adults in Klickitat County smoked as compared to 17.5 percent statewide. Smoking is, of course, a significant cause of fires at time."

Gourley said the application has been accepted by the Washington Department of Health.

"We were successful, and we are getting the smoke detectors," Gourley said.

The Bingen Fire Department will assist in the distribution of the smoke alarms to make sure they are properly installed.

"It's a great opportunity for us to do some fire prevention and education without having to spend money on the program," said Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel.

Bingen Fire Chief David Spratt said the department would take the opportunity when distributing the smoke alarms to encourage "fire escape planning."

"If we give all of these away, it's certainly a successful program and certainly reduces the work of the Bingen Fire Department," Spratt said.

In addition to the smoke detectors, the Fire Department will distribute fire prevention brochures and educational materials; offer technical assistance with planning and implementation of fire escape strategies; and site visits from Health Department officials.

The motion to support the project was approved unanimously by the Bingen City Council on March 4.

Although the White Salmon City Council did not formally sign on to support the project, Gourley said White Salmon won't be excluded from the program.

"I'm sure we'll share," Gourley said.

The smoke alarms are expected to be available in April.


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