Public Donations Buy Smoke Detectors

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COLUMBIA - The city of Columbia reports it has given away around 2400 smoke detectors since the start of a campaign to put one in every home in the city. The "Share the Light" program set up through the city allows utility customers to contribute to specific areas through their monthly utility bill. Residents not in the city limits or on city utilities can donate through the web or by phone.

Share the Light allows the donor to decide exactly where their money goes. There are six different funding areas including, public art, community beautification, youth scholarship program, public health, fire prevention and education, and crime prevention.

Since the program began in 2001, citizens have donated $192,220. After a critical mass of money is collected, the department managers and their staffs decides on a project. Once the project is identified, the Columbia City Council must approve the appropriation.

Fire prevention and education has received $32,060 in donations. This year, a little more than $2,000 was donated. The donations go toward purchasing smoke detectors for homeowners who do not have them.

"It's the goal of the Columbia Fire Department to see that every home in Columbia has a working smoke alarm," Fire Marshal Battalion Chief Brad Fraizer said. "That money really goes a long way in helping us provide smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms."

Fraizer said the fire department can purchase about 200 smoke detectors with $2,000 because it buys them in bulk. Annually, Fraizer said the fire department gives out approximately 200 free smoke alarms.

Any homeowner in Columbia can walk into any of the nine fire stations and request a smoke detector. Fraizer said people can walk out with a new smoke detector the same day. Firefighters also carry spare alarms with them in the fire trucks, so if they need to give them out in the field they can.

Even though Share the Light has been in effect for 12 years, not everyone knows about the program.

"I did not know about them until my boyfriend came home and installed them," Columbia resident Laura Dodson said. "Who knew you could go to the fire station and get them for free."

The fire department will assist in installation if necessary.

City trust specialist John Baker said the biggest obstacle with the program is getting the word out.

"Our main advertisement is in the September utility bill, and it's an envelope that's provided along with the utility bill which explains the program," Baker said.

Baker said the program funds some needs beyond basic social services, allowing private donors to make that happen if they chose.

Both Fraizer and Baker said the program will continue to run the same.

"It is kind of like if it isn't broke don't fix it," Fraizer said. "This is working."

For more information on how to donate to Share the Light visit Also, for more information on fire prevention and education visit