8 lives saved in Georgia due to free smoke alarm program

8 lives saved in Georgia due to free smoke alarm program
A family escaped a house fire in Walker County thanks to their smoke alarm (Red Cross)

WALKER COUNTY, Ga. — A Georgia county is celebrating the success of its program of giving out free smoke alarms to families.

The Red Cross and Walker County Fire Rescue say at least 8 lives have been saved recently because of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.

“Our partnership with Walker County Fire Rescue is one of the strongest we have,” said Leigh Barba, executive director of the Red Cross in Northwest Georgia. “It’s no accident that it’s saving lives.”

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Over the past two years, firefighters have placed a thousand free smoke alarms in Walker County, supplied by the Red Cross and other organizations, in homes.

In Dec. 2019, the smoke alarms helped save members of a three-generation family of six after a fire started near their Christmas tree in the middle of the night.

Brittany Mitchell, 31 weeks pregnant, was first to hear a smoke alarm. She grabbed her 2-year-old son Alex and woke her 9-year-old brother Devin Wooten.

“All I could see was flames,” Devin said. “I jumped up on a couch and then ran across a burning table out the back door. I was screaming and I could hear the smoke alarms. At first I thought it was a dream.”

It was Devin who, drawn to Walker County fire trucks at a school fair, asked his grandmother about a smoke alarm display. Within days Walker County fire safety educator Regina Dorsey had installed smoke alarms at no cost. Without them, the fire would have been grim.

“We would have had six body bags lined up in the yard without smoke alarms,” said Dorsey. “Smoke alarms save lives.”

Then on the day after Christmas, an electrical fire by a water heater triggered a smoke alarm near LaFayette. Homeowner Wayne Day, 85, called 911 and Walker County Fire Rescue came right away.

The fire didn’t spread, but “you never know,” Day said.

Red Cross smoke alarms had saved two more lives. “I stopped at the fire department and asked if they could come put them in, and they did,” Day said. “It made a big difference.

The Walker County total pushed the number of lives saved nationwide by the Home Fire Campaign to almost 700, including 22 lives saved in Georgia. The support of local partners and volunteers has helped make the campaign a success.