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Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 2/20/2013

Sylvania Township family, saved by smoke detectors, gets state award

BY KELLY McLENDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A beeping smoke detector roused Sylvania Township resident Dawn Tuite out of bed just after midnight one day last November.

After hearing the shrill sound, she made her way through her Greenacre Road home to wake up her two teen-aged sons. 

“The smoke alarm goes off and I run out and wake my one son up and then run down the hallway and get my other son. Being confused right out of sleep, they weren't quite understanding what I was saying,” she said.

Three pets were in the house, but the Tuite family was only able to round up two of them.

“We left the front door open, because we still had a cat in the house,” Ms. Tuite said. While one cat and one dog, a mixed-breed, made it out of the house with the family, the other cat was eventually found safe across the street. 

Ms. Tuite and her sons ran to the garage to call the fire department, but the phone there did not work.

“We had no coats, no shoes; our phone was dead in the garage,” Ms. Tuite said.

She drove her two sons down the road to her in-laws house, but there was no answer at the door, so they went down three more houses, to her best friend's residence.

After seven minutes of trying to get help, the fire had engulfed the majority of the house, she said. Her husband, Joseph, wasn't home at the time of the fire.

Sylvania Township Fire Department Chief Jeffrey Kowalski said there was heavy damage to the rear of the house and the incident would have been catastrophic if the family didn't have working detectors.

“Had they not awoken, we could have had a tragic incident there,” Chief Kowalski said. Because the family's smoke detectors were properly installed, the fire department has decided to honor the Tuites with a state award, called Smoke Detector On Guard.

They will be presented with the award today before a Sylvania Township trustees meeting at the township hall.

The Smoke Detector On Guard award recognizes individuals and families who use smoke detectors appropriately. The award is also presented to educate the public about installing detectors and keeping them in working order.

About two-thirds of all homes in Ohio have smoke detectors. according to the Ohio Department of Commerce which presents the award.

Richard Palmer, assistant chief, and Troy Huth, fire safety educator, from the department's Division of State Fire Marshal office, are scheduled to attend the township meeting to present the award.

Ms. Tuite said she wasn't expecting to receive such an honor.

“It wasn't until maybe December that the chief called and said that the state fire marshal nominated us. I haven't heard of this award.” The fire took place Nov. 15.

She said she was pleased to see that the weekend following her home's fire, the fire department canvassed the neighborhood, passing out detectors and checking batteries in existing devices.

“We had many neighbors that didn't even have smoke alarms. I think that's a great program Sylvania's doing,” Ms. Tuite said.

Chief Kowalski said the department has participated in passing out detectors since he has been chief, which has been about three years.

“Anytime we have a serious fire in the neighborhood, we return to the scene,” he said.

Ms. Tuite said although the family had detectors installed, they hadn't been checked in awhile, but she was thankful they ended up working.

“I'm very happy the batteries were still active,” she said.

Chief Kowalski said the award shows the family did the right thing, by having the detectors installed and working properly.

“We just want to go ahead and make sure we award that and bring that to light.”

Ms. Tuite said due to the extensive damage, the home needs major reconstruction. The family is still living in the township, but in a different home. 

“Our house is going to be rebuilt. That property has been in my husband's family. We love Sylvania. We're staying,” she said.

Contact Kelly McLendon at: kmclendon@theblade.com or 419-206-0356 or on Twitter at @MyTownSylvania.



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