York City-installed smoke detectors likely helped save home, official says


A York City family's home likely escaped serious fire damage early Thursday morning because city firefighters had recently installed smoke detectors there, Deputy Fire Chief Chad Deardorff said.

Just hours later, York City firefighters were back out in the community as part of a large-scale effort in York City's Salem Square neighborhood to install more free smoke detectors in people's homes, the deputy chief said.

"The goal is to put in as many as we can," Deardorff said. "If we miss somebody, they can call us and set up an appointment."

Deardorff said York City Department of Fire and Rescue Services has partnered with the York-Adams chapter of the American Red Cross to install the life-saving detectors as part of the Red Cross' home fire safety campaign.

About 80 Red Cross volunteers and staffers canvassed the neighborhood from about noon until 6 p.m., knocking on doors and asking residents if they needed smoke detectors, or if they'd like to have their existing ones inspected by firefighters, according to Red Cross spokesman Dan Tobin.

The result: The group installed 627 smoke detectors in 168 homes on Thursday, Tobin said.

Advance notice: Neighbors shouldn't have been surprised because Red Cross workers dropped off fliers at Salem Square homes last week to alert them to Thursday's effort, he said.

Reaction was positive, according to Tobin.

"A good many residents do let us in," he said. "If they already have smoke detectors, we check to make sure they're operational. If they're old (or not working) we replace them. ... It's key that the fire department is with us, because that gives us more credibility."

The free smoke detectors come with 10-year lithium ion batteries, he said.

"When a fire happens, you have roughly two minutes to get out of the house," Tobin said. "Smoke detectors increase your chances (of doing that) by about 50 percent."

York City's fire department installs free smoke detectors by appointment as well, according to Deardorff. Call (717) 854-3921 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Balcony fire: The 3:30 a.m. fire on the second-floor balcony of a row home in the 300 block of Pattison Street caused about $20,000 in damage and burned off the home's electrical "service drop," Deardorff said. A service drop is the electric line that runs from an electric company's utility pole to a building.

Three adults and one child were temporarily displaced but will be able to move back in as soon as electric service is restored, he said.

"Fire was contained to an exterior second-floor balcony, with some minor extension into second-floor walls," Deardorff said.

The fire started because an animal chewed exposed electrical lines on the balcony, he said. The chewed lines arced and ignited the balcony's crossbeams, he said.

The residents were able to get two of their three dogs outside when they fled, but one of the dogs hid in a bedroom, according to Deardorff.

Firefighters found it hiding under a bed and carried it to safety, he said.

Home saved: "Two things saved them from losing that house," Deardorff said.

First, when a resident of the home opened the balcony door and discovered flames, he closed the door right away.

Second, the home had working smoke detectors that were recently installed by York City firefighters, Deardorff said.

No one was hurt during the small blaze, he said.

Fire crews quickly doused the flames and cleared the scene at 5 a.m., he said.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at