COUNCIL BLUFFS — A few dozen recipients of Meals on Wheels had special visitors Friday.
Council Bluffs firefighters assisted in delivering hot and cold meals to residents on two routes, and everyone who received a meal — 126 people — got a special informational packet on fire protection put together by the department and the American Red Cross Loess Hills Chapter.
Fire Chief Alan Byers said it is just another way that firefighters can get into homes to check and make sure smoke detectors are installed and working.
“We are going to do Meals on Wheels periodically,” he said. “It's another segment of the population we can assist.”
Byers and the Fire Department have made it their mission to see to it that there are working smoke detectors in every home.
Byers started Project Alex the day after a Sept. 20, 2010, fire claimed the life of 7-year-old Alex Buzzetta. The home had no working smoke detectors at the time of the fatal fire, and the hope was to not have it happen again.
Unfortunately since Alex's death, there have been others.
But the Fire Department has installed hundreds of smoke detectors through the program. The key, Byers said, is figuring out who needs them and then getting them to the recipients quickly.
The Meals on Wheels program provides another opportunity.
Assistant Fire Chiefs John Wickman and Larry Wohlers delivered food and information to 18 homes Friday.
Wohlers said they received some “funny looks” when the residents answered their doors, but after the firefighters explained why they were delivering the meals, the residents were receptive.
Wohlers said about a third of the homes on the route needed assistance with their detectors.
The assistant chiefs contacted a fire crew immediately at each request.
Capt. Jim Wood said that, over all, the firefighters visited 11 addresses and installed seven new smoke detectors.
In a sign that the program might be working, Wood said firefighters even checked the batteries at a couple of homes where they had installed the smoke detectors.
Another program canvassing high-risk neighborhoods will take place later this spring.
Volunteers are scheduled to canvass the area west of North 28th Street to Interstate 29 and from Avenue A north to Avenue G, on May 11.
The Playland Park neighborhood may also be targeted, depending upon volunteer turnout.
The canvass consists of volunteers going door-to-door, talking with residents to find out if they have smoke detectors, if the detectors work, and if the residents would like them checked.