More than 50 people die in Wisconsin each year in residential fires, according to the American Red Cross.
On Tuesday, the organization announced a partnership aiming to reduce residential fire fatalities by 25% within five years.
The American Red Cross and the Wisconsin Smoke Alarm & Fire Education coalition said 10,000 smoke alarms have been distributed to fire departments across Wisconsin.
Firefighters will install the smoke detectors at residences that don’t currently have them.
Just six percent of homes nationally don’t have smoke alarms installed inside, said Town of Madison Fire Chief David Bloom.
But he said those six percent of homes are responsible for roughly half of the 3,200 fire deaths recorded each year in the U.S.
Patty Flowers, CEO of the American Red Cross - Wisconsin Region, said the organization handed out roughly 1,250 free smoke alarms in Wisconsin last year as part of a national effort. This year, Flowers said the partnership with WisSAFE allows the two groups to distribute roughly 12,500 alarms across the state.
“We get to do something proactive to prevent, hopefully, some of these tragedies we see everyday,” Flowers said.
She said a house fire can be devastating to a family.
“Even if you can replace everything no problem, it’s still an incredible loss,” Flowers said. “There are also those items you can’t replace — like all the photographs and the little mementos.”
The free smoke alarms distributed as part of the partnership will go to homes housing people at high risk of perishing in a fire, like young children, the elderly or those with disabilities.
According to the American Red Cross, the average person has less than two minutes to evacuate a burning residence.
“The smoke alarm really gives the occupant inside an early warning to get out of that home as soon as possible,” said Lt. Bryan Keup, of the Waukesha Fire Department.
He said quick evacuation is more important today than ever — because many modern homes are built with new materials that are lighter and more flammable than those seen in older residences.
“It burns a lot faster, and these materials also are a lot more toxic for you to breathe,” Keup said.
Those wanting a smoke alarm can visit www.getasmokealarm.org or text “alarm” to 844-811-0100.