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Woodstock sees results from pizza program

Jeff Slager has been in fire prevention for 12 years and says he has never experienced an adrenaline rush from his job – until November, that is.

Slager, a fire prevention officer for the Woodstock Fire Department in Ontario, learned that his department responded to a fire at a home in which, less than two months earlier, smoke alarms were installed thanks to his Fire Prevention Week program.

The fire, he learned, was safely put out with limited damage because of the alarms.

“You know when you’re on the trucks and the bells go off and it gets your adrenaline pumping, and you say, “Yes, we did a good job”? I had one of those moments, finally,” he said with a laugh. “I hadn’t had one of those since I came off the truck.”

Slager designed the department’s fire-prevention program around partnerships with local pizza parlours in the city. During Fire Prevention Week, firefighters tagged along with pizza delivery teams and surprised residents by paying for their pizza and checking for working smoke alarms.

Over seven days, the department hit up 11 residences. Only one of those residences was found without working smoke alarms.

“It was the only address that didn’t have working smoke alarms at the time,” Slager said. “We set them up, and our inspectors stopped by the next day to ensure they were up and to talk to people about the importance of it.”

As a result, all residents of that home were safely evacuated during the fire and damage was limited to one room.

Woodstock Fire Chief Scott Tegler said he’s happy to support his fire-prevention members and proud of their achievements.

“It’s not all the time we get a chance to associate such efforts to such a positive outcome,” he said. “We are so happy that it worked out and everybody is safe.”

The program itself was a huge hit with the community and a big part of that was social media. The department kept people updated on its surprise pizza visits using Twitter and Facebook.

Slager said he hopes the momentum from the close-call news will allow him to implement a similar program to run year round.

February 9, 2015
By Maria Church