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Hagerstown youngster fired up about safety

October 18, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- Finishing homework always is important, but the homework assignment 8-year-old Alonso Jimenez completed last year for Children's Village of Washington County just might have saved his family.

At Children's Village, second-graders learn about 911, "stranger danger" and fire safety.

Part of Alonso's homework last year was to evaluate the smoke alarm protection in his family's Mont Valla Avenue home in Hagerstown.

"They were broken," Alonso said last week of the home's smoke alarms.

After discovering the home's smoke alarms were old and didn't work, Alonso's family called the Hagerstown Fire Department, which installs free lithium-battery smoke alarms.

The lithium-battery smoke alarms last about 10 years without any battery replacements. They were installed throughout Alonso's family's home in November 2008.

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A fire started in the home Aug. 26, caused by the sudden combustion of household cleaners, said Alonso's father, Abraham Jimenez.

Ten people were in the home that night and were awakened by the smoke alarms. No one was injured.

"If we wouldn't have smoke alarms, we wouldn't have gotten up and outside when the fire started," Alonso Jimenez said.

Abraham Jimenez put out the fire, which was in the basement, with a fire extinguisher he had on hand.

"People need to know they need to check their smoke alarms," he said. "They're too often neglected. We forget they serve a purpose."

Alonso is a third-grader at Salem Avenue Elementary School, where math is his favorite subject.

The Children's Village safety education complex, at 1546 Mount Aetna Road in Hagerstown, was established in 1990 as a not-for-profit safety education organization. While not a part of Washington County Public Schools, Children's Village receives bus transportation and curriculum support.

Every second-grade student in the county spends two days out of their school year at the center. One day is spent learning about police safety issues and another is spent addressing fire safety issues.

Since October 2007, Hagerstown firefighters have installed 3,000 fire alarms in 1,600 city homes, said Mike Weller, the city's fire prevention coordinator.

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