March 13, 2019IMLAY CITY — In the aftermath of the Feb. 26 fire that claimed the lives of four children, members of the Imlay City Firemen's Association are taking steps to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.
On Tuesday, March 5, Imlay City Fire Capt. Scott Stone informed city commissioners that the department is spearheading a "smoke detector program" that he hopes will eventually lead to functioning smoke alarms installed in every home in the community—starting with the 200-plus residences at Maple Grove Mobile Home Estates, where the fire occurred.
"As a result of the fire investigation, one of the factors identified that led to the tragedy was the lack of working smoke detectors," Stone said. "To say it would have made a difference—we don't know for sure. But I believe it would have mitigated the outcome.
"We do know that working smoke detectors save lives."
Stone reminded that each year during Fire Prevention Week, Imlay City firefighters host Weston School kindergarteners at the fire hall. During those sessions, firefighters discuss fire safety and prevention with the youngsters, while additionally instilling in them the importance of smoke detectors and that they must be tested regularly and their batteries replaced.
Imlay City Fire Capt. Scott Stone discusses Imlay City Firemen's Association 'smoke detector program' with city commissioners. photo by Tom Wearing.
Stone said the students' yearly homework assignment is to go home and urge their parents to test out their existing smoke alarms and change the batteries in front of them—in hopes that the shared act sets a precedent to be followed throughout their lives.
In light of the recent tragedy, Stone fears that message has not been enough to convince some parents to take action.
"I now believe that we as a fire department have a responsibility to be more aggressive in this endeavor," Stone said.
Realizing that some families cannot afford to buy smoke/carbon monoxide detectors, Stone and his fellow firefighters conceived an idea to create and implement a communitywide program to purchase and install smoke detectors for those who need them.
"The Imlay City Fire Department has decided we don't ever want to see another life lost due to the lack of working smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors," said Stone. "We plan to start with the mobile home park and install smoke detectors for all families and individuals that need or want them.
"We will knock on every door to either install smoke detectors or to give them the detectors for self-installation," Stone said.
"If the residents are not home, we will leave information (in English and Spanish) about how to receive a free smoke detector and a phone number to call if they need help with the installation."
Though no official date has been set to knock on doors, Stone said the tentative target date is the second Saturday in April.
While the current focus is to offer free detectors and installation services to residents at the impacted mobile home park, Stone envisions expanding the program to include all residents; not only in Imlay City but throughout Lapeer County.
To accommodate a countywide initiative, Stone has contacted the Lapeer County Firemen's Association and Michael McLeieer, vice president of Michigan State Firemen's Association, to avail their support.
Stone said McLeieer has offered numerous contacts for manufacturers, along with contacts for national organizations, media outlets and the ABC Television affiliate, Operation Save a Life.
"They are willing to link us with our local ABC affiliate to help spread and promote our program," he said.
Stone said the Imlay City Firemen's Association is currently seeking donations from individuals, businesses and corporations to help purchase the new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
He said donations to the "smoke detector program" may be dropped off at the Imlay City Offices at 150 N. Main St.
Stone added that checks must be made out to the "Imlay City Firemen's Association."
Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.