Power in prevention: Local fire stories spur smoke alarm volunteers

May 2016 Posted in Community
Silverton High School seniors Tessa Oster and Simon Linnebach and freshman Kait Barnes were part of a team helping to install smoke alarms for the American Red Cross.

Silverton High School seniors Tessa Oster and Simon Linnebach and freshman Kait Barnes were part of a team helping to install smoke alarms for the American Red Cross.

By Kristine Thomas

Seniors Curt Southern and Tessa Oster are in the same personal finance class at Silverton High School.

What they also have in common is the experience of hearing a parent yell the “the house is on fire” and having to evacuate quickly.

Curt’s family home on Mill Street was destroyed in a November fire. Tessa’s home on Rock Street was damaged on March 31.

On April 23 both Curt and Tessa volunteered with the American Red Cross to install free smoke alarms and provided fire and earthquake safety education to Silverton, Mount Angel and Scotts Mills residents.

Silverton High School Teacher Kirsten Barnes said high school students and community volunteers installed 250 alarms in 81 homes that day.

Free Smoke Alarms
American Red Cross teams will
install free smoke alarms in your home.
You can arrange for a
volunteer team to visit
by phone or comuter.
Call: 503-528-5783; or,
Go to: www.surveymonkey.com
Email: SilverFallsSmokeAlarms@gmail.com

Barnes said volunteers are going to continue to install smoke alarms. Residents can call or email to have a fire alarm installed.

“We’re going to do the fire alarm follow up as requested. People can call the number or (use) the survey monkey or email us and we’ll set up an appointment and come to their home. Our goal is to have teams do 3-5 houses an evening and we can have multiple teams available as needed.  People just need to request a visit and we’re happy to check alarms and make replacements,” Barnes said.

Both Curt and Tessa can attest to the importance of the alarms.

Curt recalls he had returned home from school and was in his second-story bedroom on the day of the fire.

“My mom was outside and my window was closed but I could hear my mom yelling that there was smoke in the attic,” Curt said. “I didn’t smell any smoke because it hadn’t gotten to my room yet and the smoke alarms didn’t go off for that reason.”

Running to the attic with a fire extinguisher, Curt tried to put out the fire. But one extinguisher wasn’t enough, and he yelled to his step-dad for another.

“What we later learned is the old insulation in the attic was installed in the 1950s and the fire extinguisher couldn’t put out the fire,” he said.

When the smoke overtook him, he left the 1887 house. The house was torn down due to water damage in April, Curt said.

Tessa’s story started early in the morning, waking up at 4:30 to get ready for school. Tessa said she turned on her space heater because her room was cold and then went upstairs to take a shower.

In the middle of the shower, she heard a beeping noise, which she ignored thinking it was her mom’s alarm clock.

“My dad started banging on the bathroom door and telling me there was a fire in my room in the basement,” Tessa said. “I got a robe on and the dogs and cats and left the house. My dad tried to put out the fire but the whole mattress was on fire.”

Luckily, Tessa said, her dad got up to find out what the noise was, thinking at first it was failing batteries in the smoke alarm.

Losing their homes during senior year has been challenging for both students. Each lost many of their possessions, from clothes to mementos such as photographs.

Now both living in rental homes and watching their parents deal with insurance and making decisions on what’s next.

Neither Tess like to discuss the fires.

They would rather let their actions speak for them.

“Volunteering with the Red Cross and helping others install smoke alarms is a good coping mechanism for me rather than dwelling on what I could have done,” Curt said. “Installing smoke alarms is something I can do.”

Tessa said it’s important for people to know a fire could happen in their own home. She wants people to know it’s important to check their smoke alarms and that they need to be replaced every eight to 10 years.

“You can’t let what happen hold you back from helping others,” she said. “Installing smoke alarms is my way of helping others.”

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.