Passion for fire safety and awareness can’t be extinguished at the Gulfport Fire Department. Through a city-funded program that’s been in action for more than twenty years, low-income and senior residents of Gulfport are eligible for a free smoke detector and installation. Each unit costs about five dollars and the department gets a deal at Home Depot by purchasing in bulk.
“Smoke detectors are really important in preventing fire-related deaths and property damage,” says Gulfport Fire Chief James Marenkovic. The chief recalls many times where a smoke detector prevented small fires in Gulfport from becoming large disasters.
“One fire happened at Town Shores,” said Marenkovic. “We went in to find the whole place full of smoke. The plumber had done some work in there and the residents were in Canada.” The smoke detector’s beeping noise alerted neighbors passing by and they called the Gulfport Fire Department. The fire department rushed to Town Shores, forced entry into the condo and stopped the fire before it could spread to other units in the building. “Luckily we put it out when it was in the smoldering phase,” said Marenkovic.
Most fires happen in the kitchen, said Marenkovic, with residents forgetting food on the stove and then leaving the house. Marenkovic instructs residents to avoid installing their smoke detectors in the kitchen, however.
“People burn toast everyday; people burn bacon everyday. Then the beeping noise annoys them and they take the detector down,” said Marenkovic. He recommends that the smoke detectors be installed in bedrooms. “They’re great for waking us up.”
Need help installing? No problem. After filling out a form at the fire department to receive the smoke detector, the resident can either take it home and install (it’s a battery-powered unit that gets attached to the ceiling) or they can ask a firefighter to do it. The firefighters will drive to your home and put the detector up. Most installations happen the same day and are completely free.
“It’s not our whole job, but it’s one of our duties,” said Marenkovic.
The free detector program is available in St. Petersburg and in South Pasadena too, so residents outside of the Gulfport city limits can benefit as well. To obtain a detector in Gulfport, residents just need a water bill and an ID. The program runs all year.
“And when I run out of my supplies,” said Marenkovic, “I’ll go out and get some more.”
The Gulfport Fire Department is located at 5314 23rd Ave. S. and can be reached at 727-893-1062.