Firefighters give out free smoke detectors and batteries

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

RIVERSIDE, Mo. -- Firefighters and the American Red Cross hit the streets in Riverside Saturday morning, but they weren't responding to disaster. Instead, they were trying to prevent.

A duplex near NW Vivion Road and NW Homestead Road burned Jan. 8, after investigators say the family of four used the oven to heat the home. Everyone made it out safely, but firefighters say there was not a working smoke detector inside. The damage there is what prompted crews today to hand out and install free smoke detectors.

Riverside Fire Marshal Keith Payne said, "Fire departments are trying to educate people more and more as much as we can, as much as budgets allow."

Derek Bitzer lives right across the street from the duplex that caught fire. He said, "Luckily they got out alright, but there was not a smoke detector." Fire crews paired with the American Red Cross and went house to house, installing free smoke detectors and passing out batteries for existing ones.

Payne said, "It's easier to be proactive than not. A person's property isn't worth much to me, but their lives are worth a whole lot."

Bitzer had one working detector, but accepted another, for his daughter's room. He says he wouldn't recover from losing his family. "Even if we had a large lump insurance to pay out for a total loss, it would be irreplaceable."

Saturday's efforts were a show of concern and safety that really means something to the firefighters, who hope they won't have to visit these homes again under different circumstances.

"It felt really great to go in there and fix the fire, fix the batteries, make sure all the smoke detectors are working in the house and they have three kids."

If you have issues staying warm or need a working smoke detector for your home, please contact your local fire station.