It was a night he'll never forget. As a Red Cross volunteer, Jacques DuBose, had traveled to Boerne about a year and a half ago — on his birthday, incidentally — to render financial assistance to a family that had been displaced by a severe mobile home fire. The home was fully engulfed in flames by the time the three residents — an older man and his wife, and their granddaughter — woke up. The grandfather and little girl escaped and were sent to recover in a hospital burn unit. But not their loved one.
"She was about a foot from the door," DuBose said. "It was tragic."
By the time firefighters had quenched the flames, about all that was left of the house was the fireplace, where the blaze is believed to have started; a hot log apparently rolled onto the floor as the family slept, DuBose said. The man and his elementary school-aged granddaughter had lost their possessions, as well as a family member.
"It was really a sad day," DuBose said.
Had the mobile home been equipped with smoke alarms, the family could have woken up before the fire got out of hand, he said. This incident, as well as another fire later that year in a Boerne home that lacked a smoke detector, sparked a coordinated effort to distribute free smoke alarms in that city.
DuBose and members of the Kerrville Fire Department will undertake the same effort in Kerrville this weekend, and the only limit to distributing the 300 smoke alarms they have is the number of volunteers available, he said. Not only is it a great opportunity to help save lives, but businesses and other organizations can benefit from letting the community know they are committed to helping keep people safe, he indicated. Businesses and organizations that send volunteers are welcome to wear branded clothing, he said.
Since beginning the free smoke alarm distribution program in 2014, the Red Cross has made more than 750,000 homes safer and saved more than 600 lives, according to a press release from the organization. This includes people in Kerrville; for example, DuBose recalled a case where an elderly woman who received a free smoke alarm was saved by the device when it alerted her to a fire in the middle of the night.
"She was very grateful," DuBose said.
Dannie Smith, chief of the Kerrville Fire Department, said the presence of a smoke alarm increases the chance of surviving a fire by 50 percent. He said the city won an award from the Texas Municipal League for previous efforts to distribute smoke alarms. One year, volunteers distributed more smoke alarms than any other municipality in the area, including San Antonio, so that officials came as far as Austin to see how it was done.
"We have a great fire chief and a great *Red Cross) staff," DuBose said. "We have the same goal of making homes safer."
This year, smoke alarms will be distributed to the neighborhoods of Paschal, Three Hills, Rio Robles and Legion Hills.
Volunteering to distribute the smoke alarms on Saturday involves showing up to the Red Cross office at 8 a.m., having a free breakfast, undergoing training on what they'll be doing that day, and being assigned to a team that includes a member of the fire department and a season Red Cross member.
"We don't send people out there alone," DuBose said.
Lunch also will be provided for free before teams head out again. The effort will end at 3 p.m.
Those who wish to volunteer can call Dennis Land at 830-285-7722 or send a message to email@example.com. Or, they can show up at 8 a.m. at the Red Cross office, 333 Earl Garrett St.
In addition to distributing smoke alarms, teams will be on the look out for fire hazards and will hand out fire safety materials. Smith said they want to make sure residents know the importance of doing at-home fire drills, establishing escape routes and rally points.
"We want to do everything we possibly can to improve the safety of residents within the community," Smith said.