Elliott Jones | Team Firestoppers Project Manager – (269-353-6180 ext. 7183)


Firefighter Michael McLeieer | E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety (269-492-3340)



Team Firestoppers of Southwest Michigan is a home fire (mitigation) project launched by the American Red Cross using AmeriCorps members.  Its goal is to reduce the impact of fire incidents in high risk areas of our community by providing proactive awareness and education and increase preparedness for children and families.

Fire Facts:

    • 7 times a day, someone in this country dies in a home fire.
    • There are between 360,000 and 400,000 home fires reported each year in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
    • Over the past 2 years, Michigan has seen its highest rate of civilian fire deaths not seen since 1999.
    • Most of the homes where fire fatalities occurred, there were not working smoke alarms present.
    • Working smoke alarms double the chances of surviving a dwelling fire.
    • 62% of Americans believe they have at least five minutes to escape a burning home.
    • FACT:       A family may only have 2-3 minutes to escape a burning home and survive.


Some of the key components of the project include:

  • Conducting a community risk assessment to determine which neighborhoods have experienced the greatest number of fires.
  • Meet with families and review fire prevention information and provide a safety checklist.
  • Work with families to create a written emergency escape plan that can be tailored to the individual’s home.
  • Educate families and show them ways to eliminate risky behavior around fire.

What can you do to protect you and loved ones:

  • Make sure there is a working smoke alarm on every level of the home and test them every month. (and replace the batteries at least once a year)
  • Every household should develop a fire escape plan and practice it several times a year and at different times of the day.
  • Include two ways to get out of every room and consider escape ladders for sleeping areas or homes on the second floor or above.
  • Pick a place outside for everyone to meet and make sure everyone knows where it is.
  • Practice that home fire drill until everyone in the household can do it in less than two minutes.




State Fire Marshal Richard Miller urges extreme caution as deadly home fires are on the rise in Michigan this winter. These fires are often due to careless smoking, unattended candles, space heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces, or faulty electrical wiring.

“Just two weeks into 2015, and we’re already seeing an increase in the number of home fires and related fatalities,” said Miller. “We’re especially seeing more fires in modular or mobile homes and apartments, injuring or taking the lives of children and the elderly, as residents look to alternative sources of heat to try and keep warm.”

Miller said to keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from any type of heat source or equipment such as a fireplace, wood burning stove or portable space heater.

“All of these methods of heating may be acceptable, but are major contributing factors in residential fires,” said Miller. “Simple precautions can prevent deadly consequences.”

Whether living in a single family dwelling, apartment, or mobile home, make sure it is well-equipped with multiple, working smoke alarms in sleeping and living areas; interconnect them so when one alarm sounds, they all sound. Test smoke alarms at least once a month and replace batteries at least once a year. Never remove or disable alarms. Make sure the kids and elderly in your home know the sound of the alarm.

Have a home fire escape plan that the entire family has practiced that includes two, easy ways out of every room and an outside meeting place. Make sure you can open and get out of windows and doors.

Have a licensed electrician inspect the electrical system to be sure it is safe and meets the applicable Michigan Electrical Code requirements. Have the furnace inspected to ensure controls and emergency shutoffs are working properly.

Other fire safety tips include:

  • Never use a range or oven to heat your home. Along with being a potential fire hazard, it can be a source of potentially toxic fumes.
  • If buying a space heater, make sure it has an automatic shut-off switch. Never use it in the bathroom or other areas where it may come in contact with water. Keep the kids and pets a safe distance away and turn it off when leaving a room or going to bed.
  • Have smokers smoke outside the home.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container.
  • Never leave candles burning in an unoccupied room.
  • In the event of a power outage, portable generators should only be used outside and away from buildings, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Clear snow away from all exterior doors so you can get out fast in the event of an emergency.
  • Clear away snow from fire hydrants so they are clearly visible.

According to Miller, the peak time for home fire fatalities is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. when most families are sleeping.

“When a fire occurs, get out quick and stay out. Escape first, closing doors behind you if possible. Quickly gather at your meeting place and then notify the fire department by calling 9-1-1 from a safe location,” said Miller. “Your firefighters are specially trained and equipped to rescue your family and pets, as well as to protect your possessions. Help your firefighters by remaining together outside the home and directing them to endangered family.”

For more information on fire safety during the winter months, visit the following websites:
E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire and Safety
The United States Fire Administration
The National Fire Protection Association