Janesville34.3°

Smoke detectors alert family of fire danger; they safely flee home

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Darryl Enriquez
September 28, 2010
— Tiffany Grant was sound asleep when her domestic partner nudged her awake and asked about a sound echoing in the evening darkness.

“Cell phone,” Grant said, was her first foggy thought.


But the unmistakable odor of an electrical fire quickly cleared her sleepy head. Grant and her partner, Howard Popke, realized they were hearing the smoke detector in the adjacent bedroom of her two boys, Zachary, 8, and Andrew, 10.


The sight of flames crawling up a bedroom wall a few seconds later now has her singing the praises of smoke detectors and the high-pitched beeps that properly powered devices launch into the dead of night, when resting souls are most vulnerable.


Delavan Assistant Fire Chief Tim O’Neill said Grant’s reliance on smoke detectors should be followed by others. Batteries in detectors, he said, usually are changed when daylight saving time ends, which this year is Sunday, Nov. 7.


This is what Grant remembers of the frightening event that happened shortly after 11:30 p.m. Saturday at her home, 613 E. Washington St.


Three children, one grandchild, Grant and Popke escaped the fire. Popke confined the flames to the bedroom by using a fire extinguisher he purchased for $2 at a rummage sale.


“My bedroom door was closed and my boys’ bedroom door was closed,” Grant said. “If there wasn’t a smoke alarm in their room, it could have been a lot worse.”


When Grant, 47, and Popke, 42, opened the boys’ bedroom door, they saw flames leaping a foot or two from the wall next to the footboards of the bunk beds. An electric power strip beneath the bunks malfunctioned, melted and set the wall on fire.


Despite the racket, Zachary and Andrew remained asleep in the first-floor bedroom of the cottage-style, white home near downtown.


Grant, a department manager at Walmart for 12 years, woke her sons, wrapped them in blankets and marched them to safety outside. She then called 911 for help.


Smoke from the boys’ bedroom set off a hallway smoke detector that alerted Grant’s daughter, who sleeps in a second-floor bedroom. The daughter grabbed her baby and joined her mother outside.


After local firefighters gave them the all clear, the group was able to return to the home, Grant said.


“This should remind people to check the batteries,” O’Neill said. “Without working smoke detectors, this incident could have had a terrible ending.”



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