More than 1,000 children in the Lincoln area will go home from school with free smoke detectors following a fundraiser organized by the town’s fire department.
Lincoln Fire Department Capt. Cory Stratton and Chief Les Brown came up with the plan after the department fought two fires in the last year in buildings that didn’t have working smoke detectors, Stratton said.
The first of those caused the death of Adele Parent, 7, in February. Parent, who was the first child to die in a fire in Maine in six years, was a first grader at Ella P. Burr School at the time of her death. More than 260 smoke detectors were handed out to students at that school on Monday and will go home to each of their families.
The fundraising campaign, which just finished recently after beginning in August, raised $5,500, Stratton said. Counting those already given out, that sum will pay for 1,064 new smoke detectors.
Much of that money came in the form of small donations from residents, Stratton said. The largest contribution, $2,500, came from Modern Woodmen, a fraternal benefit society that has a location in Lincoln. Other significant donations came from Lincoln’s Penobscot Valley Hospital and Machias Savings Bank.
The second round of 800 smoke detectors will go to students at Mattanawcook Junior High School in Lincoln and cover the remaining students at Ella Burr. Others will go to students at local preschools and children being educated at Community Evangel Temple, a Pentecostal church in the town, Stratton said.
While it is unclear how many people in Lincoln don’t have working smoke detectors, the fire department encounters homes without them all the time, said Stratton, who has been the department’s fire prevention officer for 13 years.
“It really is quite devastating,” Stratton said. “It’s one of the easiest things you can do to protect your family.”
Apart from Parent’s death in February, the effort also came in response to a fire that left significant damage at an address on Lee Road in August. Stratton said he couldn’t find a single smoke detector in the house when he looked throughout the building in the fire’s aftermath.
Like many other fire departments across the country, Lincoln Fire runs campaigns every year asking that residents change the batteries in their smoke detectors twice a year. Departments often ask people to do so when the clocks change in the fall and spring so that people remember.
Stratton said he relishes his role as fire prevention officer, which often includes trips to local schools.
He understands that people live busy lives and might not always have fire safety on their minds. However, he said, it is vital for residents to take steps to protect themselves. Having a working smoke detector at home is one of those crucial steps, he said.
“It can save a life so fast,” Stratton said.