FRYEBURG — Residents Saturday were given the opportunity to schedule free smoke detector installations, thanks to the American Red Cross, the Fryeburg Fire Department, and Tom Shaffner of Fryeburg.

In November 2014, Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross, made a pledge to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by home fires by 25 percent over five years.

Ron Springel, program manager for the Red Cross’ Home Fire Preparedness Campaign, said that every year over 2,500 people die in home fires.

Since the Red Cross made that pledge, the campaign has so far installed more than 4,600 smoke alarms throughout the state and saved over 114 lives — 49 of those children.

Springel, a retired doctor, said when a fire breaks out residents have about two minutes to escape. A working smoke alarm increases odds of survival by about 50 percent.

On Saturday, 10 volunteers from the American Red Cross and four Fryeburg firefighters went door-to-door to offer appointments for Saturday, Nov. 19, to get a free smoke detector installed, go through a home fire safety checklist, and create a home fire escape plan.

The day would not have been possible without a generous donation from Shaffner, who was involved in many charity projects, including the Plymouth House in New Hampshire, where recovering addicts find sanctuary and healing. Shaffner was supposed to have joined the group making appointments, but passed away on Oct. 22.

In his memory, the 10 volunteers, including five recovering addicts living in one of the many sober houses created by Shaffner in Portland, encouraged residents of Fryeburg to take advantage of the life-saving program.  After visiting 300 homes, the group had scheduled 41 installations for Nov. 19, and Springel said more appointments will come, as the group hung information signs on door knobs to allow residents who weren’t home to call in to inquire for more information and to schedule.

I’m just trying to help people in the community, which helps me,” said Russell, a veteran volunteer and recovering addict.

Charlie Thompson, a 17-year-old high school senior and volunteer, said that in order to get others involved in the project, mass emails are sent out directing those interested to volunteerconnection.redcross.org to get others involved in the project. Time volunteered counts toward community service, and everyone is encouraged to get involved.

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