Flowers, 78, discovered that 5-year-old Loyal Corley and 6-year-old Fontaine Michael Smith had found a box of matches outside and sneaked them into the bedroom prior to the June 26 fire at their home on Prospect Avenue in Sparks. The boys had lit a match that accidentally set the entire box on fire, causing them to drop it onto the bed. Because the children knew they should not have been playing with matches they did not come out of the bedroom to alert their grandmother.
“Without the fire alarm in the house I could not have saved them in time because I would not have known and would not have gone back to check for maybe another five minutes,” Flowers said. “I told the fire investigators that their equipment saved the boys’ lives and possibly mine, too.”
Later that day, on F Street, the Sparks residence of Doug Benavides was set ablaze by an accidental ignition of lighter fluid to an upholstered chair in the living room. Benavides was in the kitchen when he heard the smoke alarm and was able to evacuate and call 911 immediately. While the damage to Flowers’ home was contained to the boys’ bedroom, Benavides’ ground floor sustained more extensive damage.
The alarms inside Benavides’ home were installed by Sparks Fire Department in 2010 during the first phase of its Project Survive a Fire Emergency (SAFE) Residential Smoke Alarm Program. Project SAFE, a federal grant-funded program, provides door-to-door installation of durable smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, a home fire and life safety assessment and educational information to residents in need, including fire protection sprinkler awareness. SFD Fire Marshal Bob King said the program speaks for itself.
“What a win for the community and for the project having a specific smoke alarm from the program alert someone to get out of the house,” King said. “It really proves the program works and that is as big as saving a life for us.”
Project SAFE has installed 1,628 smoke alarms and 255 carbon monoxide detectors in 633 homes as of June. A total of $89,702 had been given to the Sparks Fire Department for the first two phases of the program, and another $55,055 is being sought for a third year, according to King.
“Sixty-five percent of home fire deaths happen in homes that either have no smoke alarms or where the smoke alarms that are present are not working,” Kind said in a press release. “Smoke alarms are proven life-saving devices and working smoke alarms reduce the risk of dying in a home fire by 50 percent.”
King also advocated for the use of fire sprinklers in residential homes to prevent fires from growing out of hand too quickly, allowing residents more time to escape or be rescued. He said working smoke alarms combined with a home fire sprinkler system reduce the risk of dying in a home fire by 80 percent.
Flowers said Smith and Corley have learned a valuable lesson in the dangers of fire that will be reinforced when they attend a safety class with the Sparks Fire Department designed to educate their age group.
“I let them talk to the investigators themselves because I wanted to make sure he could get to the bottom of it and he stressed to them the importance of not lying,” she said. “They were so afraid of getting in trouble they were pointing at one another when I asked them what happened.”
The boys and their grandmother have been moved to a temporary living situation while their house is being restored. Flowers said the boys spend much of their days at the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows and understand the impact their mistake has had on the family.
“Life can be going very well and be beautiful and in one minute it can all change,” she said. “The house and all of that I can deal with. The only thing that really stays with me is how close I came to losing those boys, nothing else.”
The Sparks Fire Department is currently raising funds to continue placing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in area homes. Two fundraisers are coming soon: The third annual Project SAFE Golf Tournament is scheduled for July 29 and the Project SAFE Fire Department Open House and Pancake Breakfast is during Fire Prevention Week in October.