Rich Palmer, far right, reads the citation to members of the Tuite family, including, from left, brothers Matt and TJ, their father, Joseph, and their mother, Dawn. The Tuites received the award from the Ohio Department of Commerce and the Sylvania Township Fire Department on Tuesday.
A beeping smoke detector woke Sylvania Township resident Dawn Tuite just after midnight one day in November, and she scrambled through her Greenacre Road home to wake up her two teenage sons and find their pets.
“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,” Ms. Tuite said of the fire that broke out in their home Nov. 15.
She and her family — her husband, Joseph, and sons Matt and TJ — were recognized Tuesday night by the Ohio Department of Commerce and the Sylvania Township Fire Department for having properly installed smoke detectors that saved their lives.
Richard Palmer, township assistant chief, and Troy Huth, fire safety educator of the State Fire Marshal’s office, presented the Tuites with the Smoke Detector on Guard award before a township trustees meeting.
The 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.
The night of the fire, three pets were in the house, but the family could only locate two of them.
“We left the front door open, because we still had a cat in the house,” she said. One cat and one mixed-breed dog made it out of the house with the family; the other cat eventually was found safe across the street.
As the house burned, 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,” she said.
Ms. Tuite 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. Mr. Tuite wasn’t home at the time of the fire.
Sylvania Township fire Chief Jeffrey Kowalski said the rear of the house sustained heavy damage, 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.
About two-thirds of all homes in Ohio have smoke detectors, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce.
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.”
Smoke Detector on Guard (Smoke DOG) was among the awards presented to the Tuite family.
She said she was pleased to see that the weekend after the 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 because of the extensive damage, the home needs major reconstruction. The family is still living in the township but in a different house.
“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: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6050.