On April 27, Ralph Oliver lost his home of 47 years to a kitchen fire. The house was not equipped with a smoke detector. On Friday, June 6, at 11:30 a.m. at their new home at 226 Turquoise Lane in the Las Brisas Mobile Home Park, Oliver and his family will be the first recipients of free smoke detectors given out by the South Valley Volunteer Fire Department.
The SVVFD is one of 16 volunteer fire departments in Doña Ana County.
The Oliver family’s smoke alarm will be one of 400 that are available for free distribution to families in the area as a result of a $1,200 grant secured by the SVVFD. The grant was sufficient to pay for 200 smoke detectors, but when Lowe’s of Las Cruces found out about the program, the store donated an additional 200 units for distribution.
Rebecca Amati, a two-year volunteer of the SVVFD and a 10-year veteran of volunteer firefighting, said she worked closely with Lee Ann Phillips of Region II Emergency Medical Services, Inc., to secure the grant from the Injury Prevention and EMS Bureau of the New Mexico Public Health Division.
Oliver and his wife, Virginia, both of whom are disabled, currently share a mobile home with their three children, Kina, 16, Ralph II, 18, and Lori Ann, 20. Ralph II and his friend Brian Ervy, who also lives in the Oliver home, are both volunteer firefighters with the South Valley Volunteer Fire Department. Ervy responded to the April 27 fire at his friend’s family’s home, and Amati said Ervy is widely credited with being the one who got three members of the Oliver family out of the home safely.
Ervy and the Oliver family will be on hand Friday for the presentation and installation of the new smoke detector.
“This is the first time I’ve ever had to pay rent,” Oliver said, adding that he is grateful for the safety of his family in the aftermath of the April 27 fire that destroyed his family home on Tortugas Drive.
The First Alert smoke detectors being distributed sound an 85-decibel alarm when smoke is detected in a home. They also feature a low-battery warning.
Amati said the remaining 399 smoke detectors will be distributed to families based on financial need, with particular emphasis on families who live in mobile homes and on residences where small children and/or senior citizens reside.
“The idea behind the program is to save lives and speed response times,” Amati said. “Thanks to the grant and the generosity of Lowe’s, we’re hopeful that many families in Doña Ana County will be spared the hurt, inconvenience and hardship caused by fire.”
To apply for one of the free smoke detectors, leave a message at the SVVFD at (505) 525-2737 or visit the Doña Ana County Fire Marshal’s Office at 1170 N. Solano Drive in Las Cruces. The application forms are short and easy to understand, and processing an application can usually occur within three business days.
All smoke detectors distributed as part of this program will be installed by volunteer firefighters.
For more information, call county Public Information Director Jess Williams at (505) 647-7229. Residents calling from outside the Las Cruces area may call toll-free at 1-877-827-7200 and request extension 7229.