Smoke Alarm Program Aims to Improve Fire Prevention


The second week of October being Fire Safety Week, the Niverville Fire Department is getting the word out about a new program that has the potential to benefit local homeowners. Although the newer homes in town are constructed to the latest codes, with hardwired smoke alarms, many older homes still rely on battery-operated alarms.

“Our goal is to put smoke alarms in every house in our community,” says Niverville Fire Chief Keith Bueckert. “So if anybody wants a fire alarm put in their house, what happens is that we come, they sign a waiver, and we put an alarm on each level of the home. We also can do a fire safety check of the house. Then it’s [the homeowner’s] job to check the alarms on a monthly basis.”

The free program is being sponsored by the Manitoba Office of the Fire Commissioner, Red River Mutual, the Firefighters Burn Fund, and the Association of Manitoba Fire Chiefs. So far Niverville has received 100 smoke alarms, but they have the ability to ask for more.

“We’re hoping to do this through the winter, so it’s not just going to happen in October,” Bueckert says. “We wanted to run it from October through March. If people want this done, we will make it available through that timeline.”

A similar program existed last year, too, when Niverville’s fire department focussed on some of the community’s older apartment blocks.

“We went to the more dated apartments with limited systems, and we ended up installing 88 alarms in Niverville,” adds Bueckert. “We found some apartments that had no smoke alarms in them. We even saw some that had smoke alarms but no batteries in them. We really hit it hard on those buildings because we felt that was our most important priority to start with. This year we’re working on the residential side.”

The new smoke alarms are operated by lithium batteries and have a lifespan of ten years.

Bueckert says that there are few things more important than making sure that you have working fire alarms in your home. In an emergency, it will save your life.

“Your smoke alarm is your eyes and ears when you’re either sleeping or you’re in another part of the house, and it’s going to alert you to a fire, even a small fire. That small fire is going to turn into a big fire. The smoke is the thing that’s going to get people long before the heat.”

Once a smoke alarm begins to sound, Bueckert says that most people have only about two minutes to leave a house. In recent years, he says that new construction techniques and modern furniture have caused fire to move more quickly through a home. It used to be that a fire would need to burn for 30 minutes to consume a home, but that number is often as low as seven minutes now, according to recent studies.

“Having a proper working smoke alarm is so vital,” he says. “We’ve seen this with some fires we’ve had in town in the last couple of years, where smoke alarms woke people up and actually got them out of the house. One example is we had a dehumidifier in a newborn child’s room that malfunctioned and melted into the floor and actually burnt the carpet. They had a smoke alarm [and it] alerted the parents, they got in there, they got the baby out, they got themselves out, and we were there within six minutes of the call… Had they not had those detectors in there, the outcome could have been way worse.”

As with previous years, firefighters will be visiting students at the Niverville Elementary School on October 11, making classroom presentations. Each student will take home materials to help them talk about fire safety with their parents. To prove this was done, parents sign a form and send it back to the school. The classroom with the most signed forms will win a free pizza lunch, and one lucky student will win a Nintendo DS.

There are three key points of any fire safety discussion: rehearsing a fire escape plan, checking to make sure all smoke detectors work, and ensuring that every sleeping area in the home has at least two ways out in an emergency.

The department is also hosting an open house at Niverville’s fire hall on October 10 from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. There will be toonie supper, with all the funds going to support a local family who is raising money to purchase a service dog for their autistic son. They will also be collecting non-perishable food for Helping Hands.

As always, Bueckert wants to remind people that the fire department is looking forward to its annual perogy supper fundraiser at the Golden Friendship Centre on November 11, from 4:30 p.m. until 7:00 p.m.

For more information

If anyone would like to have free smoke alarms installed in their home, they are invited to contact Keith Bueckert at

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