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Keep smoke detectors at work for your safety

Fire Prevention Week is a good time to install and inspect smoke detectors at home. A Rock Falls fire last week offers a vivid example of their value.

With a working smoke detector on her side, a 20-year-old Rock Falls woman’s chances of escaping an apartment fire last week were greatly improved.

The early Friday morning blaze in the 300 block of downtown Rock Falls destroyed the two-story building where she lived. Two residents in one upstairs apartment noticed the fire and got out without injury, but it wasn’t so easy for Holly Spatz.

Spatz said she was awakened about 3:20 a.m. by the smell of smoke. She opened the bedroom door in her second-story apartment and heard the smoke detector. She called 911, and a dispatcher told her to check the apartment’s exit doors.

She opened one door; smoke billowed in. She opened the other door; a wall of flames confronted her.

She was trapped.

Fortunately, Spatz kept her head. Having closed the doors, she went to a window, opened it, and stuck her head out. A police officer saw her and instructed her to climb out the window and onto the roof. From there, a firefighter with a ground ladder helped her to safety.

The fire claimed Spatz’s possessions and her job (she worked in a dentist’s office on the first floor), but not her life. For that, she is very thankful.

When smoke does not awaken people inside a burning dwelling, smoke detectors can alert them and provide precious seconds to escape.

During Fire Prevention Week, fire-fighting officials encourage the public to be sure smoke detectors are installed on all levels of a residence, especially in every sleeping room and within 15 feet of sleeping rooms.

The Illinois State Fire Marshal’s office encourages people to regularly maintain smoke detectors. Test them once a month. Replace the batteries twice a year.

Check the smoke detectors’ age, too. Units should be replaced every 8 to 10 years.

A smoke detector’s cost is minimal, but its value is great. Statistics state that a working smoke detector reduces by half the odds of dying in a residential fire.

If your nose fails you in a nighttime fire, it’s good to know a smoke detector has your back.

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