LEWISTON — The Red Cross is working to get the word out to residents of Lewiston, Auburn and Augusta that free installation of smoke alarms is available, amid an especially deadly fire year in Maine so far.

American Red Cross volunteer Chris Swan, foreground, and Disaster Program Manager Eric Lynes go door to door asking residents if they would like smoke alarms installed in their home for free in Lewiston on Saturday.  (Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slov

Red Cross officials and volunteers gathered Saturday to canvass parts of those cities, going door to door to schedule appointments for free smoke alarm installations. People can have trained Red Cross representatives check their current alarms and have them replaced for free if they are more than five years old. Evacuation plans and other information are also provided.

“We do a great deal of media — push media and social media — but, you know, I’ve done this for so many years to know that it really comes down to grass-roots effort. And that is going out and pounding on doors in the pre-identified area,” said Eric Lynes, the Red Cross’s disaster program manager for Androscoggin, Kennebec, Franklin and Somerset counties.

The targeted areas in Lewiston, Auburn and Augusta were identified by a collaboration of the Red Cross and fire departments.

This is the third year of a five-year campaign, and the efforts are spreading to other areas after focusing on mobile home parks, which are the structures most at risk. The goal for this year is to install 1,000 smoke alarms in Maine, with an average of three per home.

“When a home fire strikes, you may have as little as two minutes to escape,” Auburn Fire Chief Robert Chase said in a statement. “Properly placed, working smoke alarms can — and do — save lives. The alarm you install may be the one to save the next life.”


So far in 2019, nine people and on-duty Berwick Fire Capt. Joel Barnes have died in home fires in Maine, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. In 2018, 18 people died in home fires in Maine.

Red Cross officials and volunteers knocked on doors Saturday morning with mixed results, leaving door hangers when no one came to the door. Some people said they already had alarms or had recently replaced them and didn’t need the free service.

About 175 volunteers make the campaign work by doing tasks such as reaching out to folks directly and receiving training to install smoke alarms.

Melissa de Silva, a school psychologist, is a volunteer with the Red Cross helping victims with trauma after home fires. This is the first year she is volunteering to do outreach for the Sound the Alarm campaign.

“So many people are affected by home fires,” she said Saturday. “I know two people in the last two weeks who have been touched by home fires.”

The Red Cross’s goal for the Lewiston-Auburn area is to sign up 125 homes, and by Saturday morning they had 50 homes on their list.


“We’ll get there,” Lynes said.

American Red Cross Disaster Program Manager Eric Lynes, right, and volunteer Chris Swan go door to door asking residents if they would like smoke alarms installed in their homes for free in Lewiston on Saturday. Lynes signed people up for the Sound the Alarm program and will return the following Saturday to install the smoke alarms at no charge. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover (Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slov






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