Saving lives

Many on Mount Desert Island are in mourning this week following the tragic news that a mother and two children with deep island roots perished in a house fire in Old Town.

While investigators are still working to determine the cause of the blaze, the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office reports that there were no working smoke detectors in the home.

Despite the fact that Maine law requires smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in all residences, we learn of far too many instances in which people have died because the devices were missing or defective. These units give people precious minutes, sometimes just seconds, to escape.

The list of reasons why smoke detectors are missing or inoperative is long and varied. Especially vexing are cases where detectors never appear to have been installed in the first place. But in far too many instances, detectors were installed, but batteries were allowed to expire or were removed to use in other devices, or the units were deliberately disarmed due to repeated false alarms from cooking or smoking.

In order to make sure there isn’t a single home or apartment, at least in the Mount Desert Island area, without a working smoke detector, an effort has been launched to provide them to people free of charge.

Through Thanksgiving week, donations of money can be dropped off at the Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor, the Northeast Harbor Library, the McEachern and Hutchins Hardware Store in Southwest Harbor or to Christopher Walsh in Town Hill. The money will be used to purchase smoke detectors that can operate for 10 years on a sealed lithium battery. McEachern and Hutchins will purchase the units at cost, so any check donations should be made out to them.

The detectors will be distributed by area fire departments and the Bar Harbor Food Pantry. Delivery and help with installation is available.

And for those who do not want to wait, area fire departments always have been willing to help residents when it comes to smoke detectors and improving residential fire safety.

For those with smoke detectors, officials recommend testing them regularly and changing out the batteries in smoke and CO detectors at the same time you change the clocks each year. It’s a good habit to get into. But along with making sure your own home is protected, reach out to make sure those of your friends, your family and your neighbors are, as well.

The untimely deaths of Maiysha Somers-Jones and her children, Zeb and Isis, have hit MDI hard. The loss to that family and to the entire community is immeasurable.

But in the aftermath of this tragedy, this renewed push to make doubly sure everyone has the best protection available will be well worth the effort if it saves even one life or spares another family such anguish.

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