Safe cigarettes and working smoke detectors could help save your life

22News is working for you with how to prevent a tragedy at your home

BONDSVILLE, Mass. (WWLP) – 71 percent of fire deaths this year were in homes without smoke alarms.

On April 8th, 69-year-old Curtis Penoyer was killed in a fire at 3055 Pine Street in Palmer’s Bondsville village. The State Fire Marshal’s Office determine a cigarette, smoldering on a loveseat, ignited that fire. Penoyer’s wife was injured and a third person made it out safely.

Palmer Fire Chief Alan Roy told 22News smoking-related fires are rare in his district, due to the state’s required fire-safe cigarettes. “These cigarettes are designed to go out quickly when they’re not being smoked and again it’s within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Chief Roy. He added that often times, fire investigators will test the cigarettes in smoking-related fires to see if they were “contraband,” meaning not the state required “fire-safe” type.

State Fire Marshal Steven Ostroskey said five people have been killed this year in fires caused by smoking materials. In all of those cases, there were no working smoke detectors in the homes. His office found that there were six smoke detectors in the Bondsville home, but three of them had dead batteries. The other three didn’t have any batteries in them at all.

22news is working for you with how to stay safe. First, determine if you want an ionization or photoelectric smoke detector. Chicopee Fire Prevention Investigator Lieutenant Katie Collins-Kalbaugh said the difference is based on how the detectors read particles of fire in the air. She said, “Ionization are associated with more false alarms, especially with cooking and with steam from showers, so if they go off all the time, they tend to be a nuisance and people take them down, so if they switch to the photoelectric, that problem goes away.” She said usually people install photoelectric. The distinction is labeled on the detector.

Next, if your detector requires new batteries, change them when you change your clocks for daylight saving time. Even if you have new detectors with 10 year battery lives, still test the detectors once a month. Check with your local fire department: Some towns and cities like Chicopee install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home for free. Lt. Collins-Kalbaugh said there are some restrictions on where they can use grant money to install the detectors. Residents must be the homeowners, not apartment tenants, and the homes must have been built before 1975. After that date, she said alarms were wired into the home, and they don’t touch your wiring systems.

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