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The cost of fire prevention: Your Stories

Flames can spread uncontrollably in minutes. If a neighbor smells smoke, firefighters may force their way into a house to investigate, even if the owner isn’t home, but a Liverpool couple says a false alarm left them with hundreds of dollars in damage.
Liverpool (WSYR-TV) - Flames can spread uncontrollably in minutes. If there's a sign of trouble, firefighters may force their way into a house to investigate, even if the owner isn’t home. But, a Liverpool couple says a false alarm left them with hundreds of dollars in damage.

James Persons' front door is cracked, bent and dented. He rushed home to find the damage after neighbors called to warn him that they smelled something burning.

“We thought the house was on fire, so we immediately left the mall and came out here. At this point the fire department wasn’t here. The Sheriff’s Department wasn’t here and the doors to our house were open and we had to talk to our neighbor to find out what happened,” Persons told NewsChannel 9.

There was no fire at the townhouse. An overheated space heater next door caused the odor. But Persons is stuck with a $1,000 deductible to fix his door. The Moyers Corners fire chief says waiting for someone to get home was not an option.

“We really have liability if we don’t go in and check, so we go in and check and we just notify the Sheriff’s Department if we’ve done it in case there’s a question,” explained Moyers Corners Fire Chief John Perkins.

Perkins says deputies often evaluate the situation and try to notify homeowners. Persons contends he found his garage door open and unmonitored, leaving his home vulnerable.

Businesses can prevent unnecessary damage with a "Knox box," giving firefighters instant access without a key. But most homes don’t have anything comparable.

The Knox company offers residential boxes in fire districts that are equipped to handle them. Homeowners can check online and call their local fire stations to be sure. The cost is far less than Persons’ deductible.

But, the chief says his crew rarely has to force entry, maybe half-a-dozen times a year, and as the Persons found out, the fire department's insurance provider doesn't have to pay for the damage.

“They actually notified us last week that they’re denying it and we’re going to be responsible for repairs on the house,” Persons said.

If you’d like to find out more about Knox boxes and the fire districts that use them, CLICK HERE.
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