BEND, OR -- Bend Fire says last week’s house fire on Cooley Road highlights a problem firefighters face on a regular basis: smoke detectors that don’t work properly. Initially, the agency reported the manufactured home did not have smoke alarms. However, they have since learned alarms were installed, but were more than 10 years old. Bend Fire Battalion Chief Dave Howe says that's one of several reasons why a smoke detector might not alert, "Either they’re outdated, they may not have a battery or they may have not received enough smoke to be activated; they might be in a place in the house where there wasn’t any smoke." He says that’s why placement is important. State law requires a smoke detector be mounted in each sleeping area and on each level of a home.
State law also requires smoke detectors be replaced every decade. Howe admits the fire department doesn't actively enforce the law; but, he says, it is important. "The radioactive material that is necessary to detect the smoke, it decays over time. And they have figured that after 10 years, it is not as efficient as it should be; the performance starts to degrade." Howe says technology also evolves and improves, "The ones they make in 2029 are probably going to be better than the ones they make now. They’re probably going to be more technologically advanced." And, he adds, "They’re also making them now with 10-year batteries, batteries that are good for the entire life of the unit." To see how old your smoke detectors are, look for the date stamp on the back of each unit.
Friday's fire started before 5 a.m. Howe says the family escaped unharmed only because the father smelled smoke and went to investigate, "And they got out; we’re very happy about that. Not only that, but this experience has brought it to light. It’s a lesson for the whole community."
Photos: (top) A home near Cooley and O.B. Riley Road was damaged by fire, March 8, 2019. Courtesy Bend Fire.
(upper right) Smoke detectors said to have been installed in the home did not go off. Submitted by resident Mystea Hobson.