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FIRE CHIEF BRENT CONNELLY holds up a smoke detector while at the Fire Department on Marshall Street. The Fire Department has a program where they install, free of charge, smoke detectors into homes that don't have them.
February 11, 2014 | 01:03 PM
There are many homeowners who simply don’t own smoke alarms.

The Lake Geneva Fire Department wants that to change, especially in the homes that are in its coverage area.

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“It is a big goal of ours to have every residence in our service area to have working smoke detectors,” Fire Chief Brent Connelly said.

That’s why, free of charge, firefighters will come into any home in Lake Geneva, and the rest of its coverage area, to install a smoke alarm.

The alarms were donated to the department by the Focus on Fire Prevention group, which is based out of Orlando, Fla.

So far, the department has installed a few more than 260 smoke alarms. About another 100 alarms are on hand at the fire department, waiting to be installed.

After the department runs out of the alarms, it plans on obtaining more from Focus on Fire Prevention.

It is not as if some people are opposed to owning fire alarms, Lake Geneva Fire Capt. Mark Moeller-Gunderson said. Nearly everyone agrees that they should have them in their homes, he said.

However, the problem arises because people often don’t take the step of purchasing and installing them.

Or someone buys a smoke detector but then removes the battery to stop it from beeping at false alarms.

Smoke detectors can be sensitive and beep because of burned dinners. Even steam from the shower can set one off. The temptation to temporarily remove the battery is something people give in to. However, many people then forget to put a battery back in place. The American Red Cross recommends never removing the battery or disabling a smoke alarm.

Connelly said the free smoke alarms include a battery that can’t be removed. The battery also has a 10-year life.

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During October, fire prevention month, the Lake Geneva Fire Department provides educational opportunities for students in local schools. Part of this effort is teaching every student in the Lake Geneva school district how to exit a smoke-filled room. The children are then encouraged to go home and develop an escape plan in case of a fire.

On Halloween, firefighters handed out candy to trick-or-treaters, and also used it as an opportunity to talk to parents about smoke alarms.

Moeller-Gunderson said the fire department signed up parents during that event to receive the free smoke alarms. If fire prevention month is October, why is the fire department working on publicizing this effort in February?

“Public education and fire prevention is a year-round effort for us,” Moeller-Gunderson said. “Fires don’t take a vacation. We want to take every opportunity we can to save lives.”

There is no income requirement for receiving a smoke alarm. Any one-or two-family dwelling is eligible. The department even has special alarms for the hearing and visually impaired. Landlords are legally required to install smoke alarms in any housing complex with more than two dwellings.

Connelly said smoke detectors should be installed on every floor in a home, including the basement.

Families that have received smoke alarms have also been grateful to the fire department.

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Lake Geneva’s Denise Ocker sent a letter to the department thanking them for installing them into her home.

“We feel so much safer,” Ocker wrote to the department.

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