American Red Cross campaign saves lives

American Red Cross campaign saves lives in Aberdeen and Grayland

A couple of scary fire incidents, which could have led to the death of one Aberdeen resident and three Grayland residents, were extinguished because of joint partnerships between the local fire departments and the American Red Cross.

Aberdeen Fire Department (AFD,) in what the American Red Cross called an “aggressive campaign,” to deliver smoke alarms to residents without a working one, saved a man’s life when the alarm alerted the resident to an appliance that caught fire.

Since January 2020, AFD has installed 99 smoke alarms during the its 193 home visits, according to Aberdeen Fire Department Chief Tom Hubbard. The department’s campaign, led by Fire Service Specialist Monica Myers, makes visits in the vicinity of where there was a call, say a structure fire, and offers to install alarms for those residents if they need one.

Hubbard detailed the incident where a man’s life was saved because of a smoke alarm that AFD installed in an email to The Daily World.

“The occupant reported that in the early morning hours of Aug. 12, 2021, the smoke detector that Aberdeen Fire Department installed activated and woke him from a deep sleep,” Hubbard wrote. “An appliance in his bedroom had malfunctioned and caught fire and had started spot fires on the carpet in his bedroom.”

Hubbard said the resident said he would have most likely died without the working smoke alarm. Fortunately, the resident was able to put the fire out himself.

A couple of representatives, Mike Michener, Dan Wirth, and Randy Ross, from the South Puget Sound and Olympics Chapter of the American Red Cross were at AFD — 700 West Market St., — on Friday morning, Feb. 11, in order to award the firefighting team an award for saving the resident’s life. A couple hours later, the three representatives awarded the firefighters at South Beach Regional Fire Authority the same award for their dedication to the campaign, which saved an elderly couple’s, and a third family member, lives.

“The reason we’re here is because of the partnership we have with AFD,” said Wirth, executive director for the South Puget Sound and Olympics Chapter. “This type of program saves lives.”

Wirth detailed that the program allows them to install smoke alarms, provide home fire safety education, discuss fire escape plans, as well as alert people to some of the common hazards around the house.

“It’s important to save lives,” he said. “It’s important for us to be able to get these alarms and this education into the community and into people’s homes.”

Wirth said American Red Cross couldn’t do it without AFD’s support at the top, which starts with Hubbard. Wirth also thanked Myers because of her dedication and belief in the program.

“We’re just so grateful for this partnership and your leadership,” Wirth said. “This is just one example of somebody’s life that’s been impacted because of this partnership.”

Myers, who seemed to prefer to deflect praise, said it’s a team effort after she received her award.

“It’s we, not I,” Myers said. “It starts at the top. Without his support, we can’t do anything.”

Myers said the award is for the whole Aberdeen firefighting team.

“It’s because all of my firefighters, they all help me,” she said. “You can’t do anything by yourself. The chief supports us with awesome support, so I think it’s pretty cool.”

Firefighter and paramedic David Schreier said he’s glad that since the man’s life was saved he can let others know about the importance of smoke alarms.

Aberdeen Mayor Pete Schave applauded Aberdeen Fire Department for saving the man’s life.

“We have an amazing firefighter team and emergency services team,” he said. “It’s great to see them get recognized for all the hard work they do. They do so much and it’s nice to see once in a while someone getting recognized for their service.”

Another incident in Grayland saved the life of an elderly couple, and a third unidentified family member, on Dec. 17, 2019, when their smoke alarm warned them of a fire that started in their kitchen.

Dennis Benn, fire chief for South Beach Regional Fire Authority (SBRFA,) said since 2016 that his crew has installed about 150 smoke alarms in at least 50 home visits, with 3 per home.

Michener said SBRFA installed a smoke alarm in the couple’s home that saved them from a kitchen fire.

“They got out without injury,” he said. “We consider that a save. We get excited about those once we hear about those. We know those are accurate reports from the fire departments.”

Michener detailed his feelings about the efforts of AFD and SBRFA’s teams.

“I think it’s incredible,” he said. “Aberdeen and Westport are two excellent partners with American Red Cross. They’re top of the line. We work close with both to provide alarms and instructional materials. Both are really proactive with this thing. We couldn’t ask for better partners.”

Benn told Michener and Wirth that his department really appreciates the partnership it has with American Red Cross.

“Without you, the chances are we probably wouldn’t be doing this on our own to this extent,” Benn said.

Michener then read the award he, Wirth, and Ross bestowed upon SBRFA.

“South Beach Regional Fire Authority, family of 3, Grayland, WA., Dec. 17, 2019,” said Michener, before noting he’s sorry for American Red Cross’ delay in getting to Westport in order to award the department.

But, Michener added the trip to the fire station was still from the heart and they appreciate with SBRFA did.

Patrick Glennon, firefighter and emergency medical technician for SBRFA since 2010, said whatever the department can do to help the public is always helpful and that he likes doing it.

Benn appeared to be in high spirits after the American Red Cross awarded his department, and it must be because of the confidence he has in his crew.

“One of the core fundamentals of South Beach Regional Fire Authority is that we understand that it takes exceptional people to deliver exceptional service,” he said. “We have a great crew here. We really support our boots on the ground. We understand if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to deliver service.”

Benn also touched on the importance of smoke alarms.

“Smoke alarms are one of those things that is overlooked,” he said. “When it comes to buying medications, or feeding your family, or purchasing smoke alarms, medications and food probably come before smoke alarms.”

Benn said there is a level of complacency.

“There’s always that thought that ‘it can’t happen to me,’” he said. “That’s what most people think, that it will never happen to me. That theory is proven wrong probably three times a day in the United States.”