Members of the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company went door-to-door in the Edgewater Village neighborhood in Edgewood Saturday morning, checking smoke alarms and installing many replacements, free of charge.
In two hours, the 36 firefighters, cadets and administrative staff from the fire company visited 234 homes and installed 123 smoke alarms, according to the fire company and the Harford County Department of Emergency Services, which jointly sponsored the initiative.
The smoke alarm installation is perhaps the most visible response since last July's mass visit to the community by county elected officials and government department heads, during which pledges were made to help improve the quality of life in the community in response to a wave of shootings and other crimes.
Fire Chief Ryan Barrow of Joppa-Magnolia spearheaded coordination of a door-to-door campaign with his firefighters and administrative members. The initiative involved several months of planning, according to the fire company, whose first response area includes Edgewood.
"Overall public safety was an issue of concern coming out of the community visits in July, in particular the number of fire incidents, including fatals," Robert Thomas, the county DES spokesman, said Tuesday.
Thomas said there have been a number of severe fires in the last 10 years on Judy Way, one of the streets canvassed Saturday. The firefighters also visited homes on Brookside Drive, Grempler Way, Simons Court and Waterside Court.
"We opted to have a door-to-door canvas to make sure these homes had working smoke alarms and to provide three in the ones that didn't, in accordance with the new state law," explained Thomas, who said the county provided $2,000 to supplement the fire company's supply of alarms.
"It worked out very, very well," he continued. "Joppa-Magnolia did about 130 homes in 45 minutes, felt it was well worth it, and expanded to adjoining areas to visit 234 total. That's the largest single visit and installation Joppa-Magnolia had ever done, and it appeared to be well received by residents."
Thomas said several people told the firefighters how much they appreciated the concern shown and smoke alarms.
In addition to installing the smoke alarms where needed, the firefighters handed out literature on home fire safety at each home visited, the fire company said in a statement.
Most of the homes visited Saturday are townhouses, the majority of which were built between the early 1970s and the mid-1980s. Many of the homes are occupied by renters, Thomas noted.
"The Maryland smoke alarm law goes back to the late 1970s, and most of these homes should have had smoke alarms," Thomas, a former deputy state fire marshal, said. "Why some of the homes didn't have functioning smoke alarms, we can't say. Maybe they became defective and were thrown out."
"The point is these homes are all equipped now with the new 10-year battery operated alarm that is tamper resistant," he added.
"We are grateful to Chief Barrow and the dedicated volunteers of Joppa-Magnolia for their service and assistance with this initiative," Mary Chance, the county's Director of Administration, said in a statement. "The door-to-door smoke alarm campaign is an example of a true partnership between local government and a non-profit service organization, the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company, that has served the citizens of Edgewood with distinction for many years."