Shirley Mancini had only one smoke alarm in her Superior home.
“And it was older than Methuselah,” the retired Mineral County clerk and recorder of 40 years said.
Turns out it didn’t even work.
But now, thanks to Superior Fire Chief Rob Torrey and his crew, Mancini has three working alarms and more peace of mind when she goes to sleep each night.
“He’s doing a fantastic job,” Mancini said. “He came here and did it himself. He’s very efficient.”
In a little over a year, Torrey and his department have installed 282 smoke alarms in more than 100 homes in Superior and the rural fire district, which encompasses 66 square miles and includes 2,220 people. The effort is part of the American Red Cross’ national Sound the Alarm, Save a Life campaign, which aims to reduce home fire deaths in the United States by 25 percent by 2020. Home fires kill seven people a day, more Americans than every other natural disaster combined each year.
Torrey wants to change that and said the community has been incredibly receptive.
“They are really thankful,” Torrey said. “Folks here just don’t have a lot of spare funds and just couldn’t do this on their own. We have so much wood heating and propane use in this area and that comes with an increased fire risk that it’s so important people have working alarms.”
The alarms, provided by the Red Cross, come with batteries that are good for 10 years, which is especially important for the elderly and those with mobility issues who have difficulty climbing a ladder or stepstool.
“I tell people with early detection you can often go out the door you usually go out of and you won’t have to go the emergency route,” Torrey said.
Besides installing the alarms, Torrey and his department also talk to residents about creating a fire escape plan and discuss the most common fire hazards. And for Torrey, who came to Superior in 2016, it’s another way for him to get know his community and for the community to get to know him.
“It’s not always just about the smoke alarms,” he said. “I’ve changed a few light bulbs for folks along the way, too.”
Torrey often answers questions about carbon monoxide alarms and helped Mancini install a carbon monoxide alarm she purchased locally. His department recently secured a grant that will help pay for 15 bed shaker smoke alarms that will alert those with hearing impairments during a home fire.
Next spring, Red Cross and its volunteers plan to install 350 smoke alarms in more than 115 Billings homes. The Montana Red Cross also organizes smaller install events in communities across the state throughout the year.
To learn more about the Sound the Alarm, Save a Life campaign visit redcross.org/homefires. There you’ll find information about how to prevent a fire in your home, how to donate to the campaign and how to volunteer during an installation event in your area.
If you’re interested in coordinating a smoke alarm installation event in your community, please call 800-ARC-MONT and leave your name, town, phone number and email and Red Cross staff will follow up with you.
Those in the Superior area who would like to take part in this program can contact Torrey at 406-822-4900 or email email@example.com