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DeKalb helps launch Fire Campus Safety Month

DeKALB – DeKalb Fire Chief Jeff McMaster said the city of DeKalb has had more than 40 fires in 2019, resulting in more than $1.3 million worth of losses that might have been less severe had some homes had working smoke detectors in them.

McMaster spoke Wednesday during a gathering of state and local fire and elected officials to recognize Fire Campus Safety Month and prepare the community for a new law, which will go into effect in 2023. The law will require homes to have a new model of smoke detector that proponents say is more cost effective and could save more lives.

“Very often, smoke detectors are either missing or not operational in these buildings,” McMaster said at a news conference at DeKalb Fire Station No. 1 on Wednesday.

The new 10-year smoke-detector law is the product of ongoing efforts to alleviate the growing number of fire deaths in Illinois. Illinois suffered more than 100 residential deaths in 2018, the majority from homes without working detectors. The law will require homes built before 1988, which likely still have simple detectors with removable batteries that must be replaced every six months, to upgrade to a new detector, with a built-in, 10-year sealed battery.

Illinois State Fire Marshal Matt Perez the legislation was long overdue.

“This law is so important, because the majority of fire deaths happen in homes where there are smoke detectors not present, put in the wrong place or not activated,” Perez said.

Aurora-based First Alert donated 100 of the detector models to the DeKalb Fire Department, along with 10 installation kits, which McMaster said firefighters will use to help residents install their new systems, or if they respond to a fire in home without a working detector.

State Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, referenced a number of high-profile fires that left hundreds of residents in DeKalb and Sycamore homeless over the summer.

“The time and ability to get out with this new technology is going to be so much more of an advantage to folks facing tragedy,” Keicher said. “They’re going to have an opportunity to be alert quicker, sooner and the fire department is going to be able to save more lives.”

The new devices cost about $15 a piece, as opposed to the old-school detectors which would cost $400 to $600 over a decade if the batteries are replaced twice yearly, as recommended by fire departments, Phil Zaleski, Executive director of illinois Fire Safety Alliance said.

Beth Squires, a Northern Illinois University graduate who works as a public health coordinator for the School of Heath Sciences, said college students aren’t aware of how serious fires can be.

“College students don’t realize how quickly a fire can turn deadly,” Squires said. “While on campus, as well as sororities and fraternities are required to have fire sprinklers. Off-campus housing is not, and a working smoke detectors could be the only thing that saves your life.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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