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Zetterberg donates detectors to local fire agencies

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – The Red Wings and All-Star forward Henrik Zetterberg hope to put a dent in a disturbing and deadly trend in Michigan.

According to reports made in December by two insurance groups, there was an increase in fire-related fatalities in Michigan. The Michigan Association of Insurance Agents said that there were 132 residential fire deaths in 2006 -- an increase of 15 percent from 2005.

On Wednesday, representatives from local and state fire agencies gathered at Joe Louis Arena where they took delivery of 2,200 smoke detectors donated by the Wings and Zetterberg.

Zetterberg couldn’t stress enough the importance of detectors in homes.

“All the homes should have it,” he said. “They save a lot of lives and hopefully this year we’ll help a lot of homes have them. Pretty much every home back in Sweden has them. It’s such a common thing to have. Hopefully, we can make them just as common over here too.”

In October, the Red Wings held a drive at three home games where fans were asked to donate smoke detectors and cash donations to purchase more. In all, the team collected 1,100 devices, which was matched by Zetterberg’s donation.

Statically, having a working detector in the home can prevent most residential fire deaths, said Southfield (Mich.) fire inspector Michael Albo.

“According to the United States Fire Administration, approximately 93 to 97 percent of homes have smoke detectors,” Albo said. “Unfortunately, only two-thirds work properly. If we could get 100 percent compliance we could potentially eliminate approximately 3,500 fatalities on an annual basis.”

Fire officials said Wednesday that besides the absences of home detectors, another problem is non-functioning detectors, or detectors with dead or no batteries.

“Like you, I watch the media and it’s shocking to me how frequently there wasn’t a detector in the home,” said David Chipman, assistant special agent-in-charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives. “It’s one of those things, especially with lower-income areas that’s where we see it the most. I think this is a great opportunity to put 2,000 detectors out there, because it’s absolutely preventable.”

Many municipalities, like Southfield and Detroit, have detector distribution program for their city residents.

“Citizens can call and request that smoke detectors be installed in their homes,” Detroit Fire Chief Gary Victor said. “It will be setup on a schedule where someone will actually come out and install smoke detectors. The program extents beyond that to knocking on some doors and checking on some neighbors, and when we have a fatality in a particular neighborhood our community relations division and other members will go out and work the neighborhood, the blocks and that street to check that they all have working smoke detectors.”

Besides the representatives from Detroit, Southfield and the ATF, members of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department and the Michigan Fire Marshals Office joined Zetterberg at Wednesday’s event.

In coming weeks, the 2,200 detectors will be distributed to fire departments throughout southeastern Michigan.

In Southfield, residents who receive detectors through the city’s distribution program also get annual reminders to put fresh batteries in their detectors.

“We record their name, address and phone number,” Albo said, “then they get a courtesy call at Daylight Savings Time as a reminder that we call Day Life Savings Time, because working smoke detectors truly save lives.”

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