There is a lasting feeling of sorrow and loss for a firefighter after responding to a scene of destruction. Smoke alarmsThat’s why the West Columbia Fire Department makes every effort possible to prevent each and every fire.
“I cannot describe how it feels,” West Columbia Assistant Fire Marshal Rodney Howell said. He said there is a “weight” that firefighters deal with when they see the devastation caused by fire.
The West Columbia Fire Department puts forth a substantial effort to educate the public regarding fire prevention. The department’s fire prevention efforts manifest in a variety of ways. Fire prevention efforts include speaking to civic groups and church groups. Children’s activities, including a puppet show, have also been successful in teaching prevention and reducing the number of serious fires in the area.
Because of the emotions experienced by emergency personnel, Howell said they are on a mission.
“Our job is to protect and educate,” said Howell. “That is crucial to prevention.”
Another part of the job is to make sure anyone who does not have a smoke alarm can get one, even if they cannot afford to pay for it.
The West Columbia Fire Department has a smoke detector program. The department will install smokeSmoke WCFD Check detectors, at no charge, in the homes of people that otherwise would not be able to obtain them.
Howell said the smoke detector program is funded by grants fundraisers or any means necessary. The desire to help is so strong, whatever has to be done, is done.
PHOTOS: WCFD Fire Chief Wyatt Coleman, Deputy Chief Marquis Solomon, and Deputy Fire Marshal Rodney Howell present check from the WCFD’s Muscular Dystrophy Boot Drive to MDA Executive Director Tara Heil. Below WCFD educating the community and checking a home for a smoke detector.
“I have seen members of the department go into their own pocket to pay for smoke detectors,” Howell aid.
And in 2017, fire deaths are at their highest point ever, Howell said. So the effort is more pronounced than ever.
In addition to making sure residential structures have devices to prevent fire destruction, Howell said he preaches the same cause to businesses.
Smoke WCFD Community“I ask them if they have a smoke detector at home. And they say “yes,” said Howell. “Then I ask them if they think it’s important to have a protection at home, why is it not important to protect your business?”
Howell said West Columbia’s program to help prevent fires goes back years. He referred to the “Get Alarmned SC” program that was introduced awhile back.
He mentioned the South Carolina Firefighters Association and the South Carolina Fire Marshall’s Association as support groups that the WCFD has been involved with.
Howell also said the American Red Cross received a $50,000 grant and about all of those funds have gone to buying smoke detectors for people who could not afford them.
In addition to smoke alarms, Howell said in some cases it is imperative to install carbon monoxide detectors.
He referred to the Jeffery Lee Williams Foundation. It was launched after 11-year-old Jeffrey Lee Williams and his mother Jeannie were overcome by silent, odorless, deadly carbon monoxide fumes in a hotel room in 2013. Jeffery Lee died. The room did not have a functioning carbon monoxide detector – a simple device, available for around $20 would have saved his life.
The Jeffrey Lee Williams Foundation is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization with a singular mission to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning by making carbon monoxide detectors available.
Howell said West Columbia Fire Department personnel are always on the look-out for the need for carbon monoxide detectors.
“We ask if there is they heat with gas or if there is a gas stove,” Howell said. “If there is, it can produce carbon monoxide and it can get you really fast. You may go to sleep and not wake up.”
Smoke detectors WCFDHowell said carbon monoxide detectors can save lives, so the effort is just as strong to install carbon monoxide detectors as it is for smoke alarms.
He said Amazon has granted Lexington County with funds for carbon monoxide detectors, and West Columbia has been able to access that money to get some detectors for local homes.
Howell said the desire to prevent tragedy is so strong, West Columbia does not let an opportunity go by.
“Regardless of the call, a cat in the tree or whatever, we will ask to test the smoke detector or if they have gas,” he said. “Our job is to protect and educate. Education is crucial if we are going to prevent more deaths.