A group of four volunteers converged on Bob and Meri Lile’s home in Worden on Saturday to install a free fire alarm.
“This is the one we needed replaced because it just quit,” Meri Lile said, nodding to an old mounting bracket on the hallway ceiling that once held an alarm.
“It quit like a year ago, and you procrastinate on things like that,” Bob Lile said, voicing appreciation for the nudge to get a new one and for the free install.
“We have alarms in other rooms and two in the basement,” he said.
Worden firefighter Nelson Miller climbed a stepladder and used a power drill to remove the old mounting bracket and install a new one. Then he screwed the new alarm in place.
The entire operation took about five minutes.
Miller was on one of three teams that fanned out across the district covered by the Worden Fire Department to install 107 fire detectors and distribute fire-prevention materials. The American Red Cross of Montana organized the home fire safety rally and free smoke alarm installation.
Five members of the Worden Fire Department were joined by four members of Rocky Mountain College’s women’s equestrian team. Also on hand were Abbra Firman, Red Cross disaster program manager for Eastern Montana, and Jill Washburn, Rocky’s community service coordinator.
The volunteers broke into three groups and visited homes in Pompeys Pillar, Worden, Ballantine and Huntley. In addition to the households that had responded to ads placed by the fire department, the teams also intended to go door-to-door.
The local effort is part of a national campaign, Firman said.
“We’re trying to work together in communities across the country in order to reduce fatalities due to home fires over the next five years by 25 percent,” she said.
Firman chose the timing of the event to coincide with Red Cross Month. She also coordinated a number of open houses and community outreaches in March to recruit volunteers.
With only Firman in Eastern Montana and a paid staff member on the western side of the state, “volunteers are essential,” she said.
Worden Fire Chief Carl Midgley first heard about the Red Cross fire alarm program when Firman made a presentation to the county’s fire council. He jumped on the idea.
“It’s very important out here especially because we have a lot of manufactured and mobile homes, and those tend to burn rather quickly,” Midgley said. “It’s very important to have smoke alarms, so they can have as much warning as possible.”
The community also is home to a lot of older homes that contain toxic materials, such as asbestos — another reason to quickly get out of a burning home, he said.
“And a lot of folks just don’t realize that they might have smoke alarms, but they might be bad, they might not be working,” Midgley said.
The work was made easier by the help of the equestrian team members. Community outreach is a required for all the members, said team president Erin Burns.
Volunteering also is part of the philosophy of the team and the college, she said.
“It’s important not only to do what you love, but to give back to the community that allows you to do such a thing,” Burns said.
Midgley added that if the demand for the alarms was greater than the supply on hand, he would likely do another similar program at a future date.