Sound the Alarm Campaign Perspective
by Brian Deloche, Red Cross Volunteer
Five wooden crosses decorated with flowers, three with teddy bears attached, stood next to the roadway. Behind them, the burned out hulk of a mobile home stood as a silent reminder of the fire that claimed five lives, two adults and three children — all members of one family.
Though authorities determined the deadly fire was deliberately set by a child, it served as a stark reminder of why American Red Cross Volunteers and members of the Eureka-Goodfied Volunteer Fire Department were in the Timberline Trailer Court near Goodfield, IL May 4th.
The Red Cross and Fire Department volunteers were in the trailer park to install smoke alarms as part of the Red Cross Sound the Alarm Campaign. They were hoping that through their efforts no one in the mobile home court would ever die as a result of a home fire again.
Shawn Johnson, property manager at the trailer park, helped organize the event and has given time going door-to-door urging residents to install smoke alarms.
For Johnson, the tragic fire was particularly painful. “I sold that trailer to that family,” he said. “There were smoke alarms in it when they moved in, but that was some time ago. Whether they were working the night of the fire, I can’t tell you.”
According to Johnson, many of the mobile homes were built during a period of time when smoke alarms were hard-wired into the electrical system. Many of them are no longer working. “That’s why I’ve been knocking on doors. I’ve been to trying to get people to understand the need to have working smoke alarms in their homes.”
Johnson isn’t alone in his attempts to sound the alarm. He has a faithful, able-bodied sidekick in his granddaughter, Caylee. The eight-year-old was at her grandfather’s side for every step and every installation he made.
The young volunteer even found herself doing an on-camera interview with a local television station. She told the reporter she wanted other children in the trailer park to feel safe in their homes.
“This has been difficult for Caylee,” Johnson said. She knew the children who were lost in the fire.”
Joyce Bollinger was one of the residents who opened her doors to the volunteers. Bollinger, who loves to sew and quilt, does much of her work at a table just off her kitchen. Through the window in the front of the room, she can see her daughter’s home, and just a few doors down is where the family died.
“I’ve been thinking about what happened down the street,” she said. “I think it’s wonderful they are putting these alarms in for people. I just hope they never go off.”
The American Red Cross Central and Southern Illinois worked on this effort with our community partner, The Eureka-Goodfield Fire Protection District.
During the Sound the Alarm free smoke alarm installation effort, volunteers installed 1809 smoke alarms in hundreds of home throughout our Red Cross region. Nationally, 120,000 alarms were installed in about 50,000 homes.