Firefighters declared it a successful Smoke Alarm Walk with 47 smoke alarms installed to keep residents in the Pine-Strawberry community safe, according to Arizona Burn Foundation (ABF) Programs Director Krystin Bridges.
Volunteers spent a few hours Saturday morning installing smoke alarms in 17 homes.
Organizer and Pine-Strawberry Fire Department (PSFD) firefighter Bill Potter cooked up smoked pulled pork, homemade barbecue sauce and coleslaw for the crew afterward.
Potter has become an advocate for ABF since he and wife Dawn learned about all they do during a nearly year-long battle with their son, Brandon, who was severely burned lighting a fire. Brandon lost his battle, but the support and care that they all received created strong connections.
Potter has taken part annually in “Cook Like a Firefighter” and plans to be involved again this October. Volunteers and this lucky reporter sampled Potter’s offering for this year. Stay tuned October will be tasty!
ABF rolled out a new program enlisting a firefighter to raise a crew of firefighters and civilian volunteers, and put them in teams of two to four. Potter then cruised through the community, knocking on doors and asking about smoke detectors. If he found a home without one, he put them on the list of free installation.
Bridges briefed the three teams and provided all the materials, including a community information packet with information on fires, house fires, wildfires and how to make a plan for both.
She instructed the volunteers on basic installation, put them in the bedrooms and hallways, high on the wall about a hand’s width from the ceiling.
Armed with masks, orange vests, tools and smoke detectors, the teams left the station.
Civilian volunteers Ivan and Holly Mester’s first stop was their own home.
“Firefighter Potter knocked on my door and started talking about fire hazards in the neighborhood,” said Holly. The Mesters moved to Pine in October 2021. “We are new to the community and community is everything,” she added. So they got on the list to have their alarms checked and joined the team to help others.
Holly has also had experience with fire.
When she was 14, she was frying hot dogs and started a grease fire and in 2016 while cooking she stepped away to speak to her son and was gone a minute too long and another fire started.
“I’m terrified of fire,” she admitted.
“I think everyone should be,” said Bridges as she supervised the Mesters’ install.
Civilian volunteer and community supporter Katie Parks said it was a simple decision.
“Bill made me do it,” she laughed. As the owner of Bandits in Strawberry, her reputation for fundraising and community participation is well known, so no surprise that Potter knew who to ask.
“I am glad to be a part of something that I can say I know they are better protected now,” said Parks.
Parks paired up with PSFD firefighter Tommy Cordova. On-duty firefighters Zack Graham and Phil Paine helped this team in between calls.
“I’m here to support firefighter Bill Potter, the community I serve, and the Arizona Burn Foundation,” Cordova said.
Fire Marshal Rick Barnes joined Potter’s team and included ABF social worker Kelsey Stryker.
Potter rewarded his volunteers with the aforementioned lunch.
“This pork is amazing,” said Bridges.
“I’m so happy right now,” said Parks.
“I’m not a sauce person, but I love this sauce,” said Holly.
During lunch Bridges informed the group that Pine-Strawberry Fire Department, led by Potter, had more installs than the bigger departments like a Gilbert or a Goodyear. Potter’s competitive side was excited. He has a plan for this year’s cooking challenge and wants a first place.
Residents were grateful. Teams left with smiles and occasional hugs as they educated the residents about the longevity of the smoke detector and how to check them. And they left with a full belly and a secret, only they know just how good this year’s “Cook Like a Firefighter” will be. Stay tuned, you will help Potter and Pine-Strawberry Fire Department gain that first place.