CLINTON — Ten years after a fire took the lives of four family members, including two children, Clinton Fire Marshal Jeff Chapman remembered the tragedy during a city council meeting.
During discussion of an ordinance that will require carbon monoxide alarms, Chapman told the council that the fire department wants to improve its smoke detector program. The devices save lives, Chapman said.
In January of 2010, a fire at 2436 Dunham St. took the lives of Francine “Fran” Molitor, 59, her daughter Tonya D. Molitor, 32, and Tonya’s sons, Tyler J. Wade, 6, and Patrick A. Molitor, 3, a Clinton Herald article says. The Clinton Fire Department extinguished the small fire within 10 minutes. A smoke detector on the home’s second floor wasn’t working because the battery had been removed.
To avoid such tragedies, “Why not be proactive?” Chapman asked the city council last month.
“I’ve been here 25 years,” Chapman said Thursday. “Since I started here, we’ve always had a smoke detector program. Until 10 years ago, it was for the elderly.”
The fire department didn’t want seniors getting on ladders to replace smoke detector batteries and risking a fall.
The program changed 10 years ago “when we had that horrific fire,” Chapman said. The community rallied to expand the free smoke detector program to all families, but not to rental properties.
“We did almost 7,000 smoke detectors,” Chapman said. “Ten years is coming up. The batteries are only good for 10 years.” The department will have to revisit all of those devices, he said.
Funding is always an issue for the program. “We just got 350 detectors in,” said Chapman. At $14 per detector, that’s $5,000 dollars.
Adding carbon monoxide detectors to the program would be nice, Chapman said, but devices with carbon monoxide detectors in them are $32 each, and funding is currently unavailable.
“The program we have has really been modeled all over the State of Iowa,” Chapman said. He’s hoping for sponsors that will allow Clinton Fire to expand the program.