Eric Douglas: Give the gift of a smoke detector

Eric Douglas sig

A few months ago, I was at the Capitol Market and met Kenneth Tyree, the West Virginia Fire Marshal. We have a mutual friend who introduced us. I was surprised when he mentioned a column I wrote a couple years ago about smoke detectors.

Considering winter is here (not officially, but you know what I mean), I thought it was time to bring this up again.

As the temperatures outside drop, more and more people turn to space heaters and fireplaces to keep their homes warm. Unfortunately, that also means we will hear more stories about house fires.

There will be stories of families escaping their homes just in time but losing all their Christmas presents. There will probably be a story about a family losing their lives to a fire as well.

According to data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System, in 2017 there were 18 deaths and 13.3 injuries in every 1,000 residential structure fires in West Virginia.

The number of injuries is half the national average, but the number of fatalities three times higher. That’s a huge problem. Eighteen people die in every 1,000 house fires, compared to 6.1 nationwide.

If you don’t have a working smoke detector in your home, call your local fire department. If they don’t have one on hand, I’m sure they can find one for you. The American Red Cross recently had an event where they installed nearly 125,000 smoke detectors across the country. There are free resources. There is no excuse not to have a working smoke detector in your home, regardless of your economic status.

That said, one of the worst stories I’ve heard about smoke detectors is people pulling the batteries from their smoke detectors for use in kids’ toys around the holidays. That’s a horrible mistake.

Many new smoke detectors are sealed with a 10-year-battery. That means no one can “borrow” a battery for a game and you don’t have to worry about the battery dying and not noticing. Thinking you have a working smoke detector that isn’t functional is likely worse than not having one at all.

This time of year, many people like to do things for others. We often hear of Good Samaritans paying off layaway bills or school lunches for kids. How about making a donation to your local fire department to buy some smoke detectors? Or, if you prefer to do the shopping yourself, call them up and ask what detectors they recommend and go buy a few. Many places sell Contractors Multi-Packs of smoke detectors so you can even get them at a bargain price.

That’s a gift that will literally save a life.

Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. He is also a columnist for Scuba Diving Magazine and a former Charleston Newspapers Metro staff writer. For more information, visit or contact him at

Funerals for Monday, December 9, 2019

Burns, Mary - 10 a.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Fisher, Jerry - 1 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Goodson, Debra - 7 p.m., Waybright Funeral Home, Ripley.

McCallister, Henry - Noon, Casdorph & Curry Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Peyatt, John - 11 a.m., Morris Funeral Home, Cowen.

Treadway Sr., Ernest - Noon, Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Oak Hill.

Westfall, Elma - 2 p.m., Stockert-Paletti Funeral Home, Flatwoods.