Snohomish County family giving free smoke alarms to save others

Two tragedies this month have renewed concerns about smoke alarms.

There were no working alarms in two devastating fires in Spokane homes, one that killed a little boy, the other that severely burned a mother who ran back inside her burning house to save her children.

After their own tragedy, a Snohomish County family is dedicating their lives to making sure every family has smoke alarms -- whether or not they can afford them.

When Gerry and Bonnie Gibson’s son died in a house fire last January they were devastated. But when they found out why that devastation became determination.

“Our first daughter at the scene heard there were no smoke alarms and she was just irate,” explained Bonnie Gibson.

Greg Gibson, a popular Seattle musician, rented the basement of a Shoreline house for a decade. His family says he likely never noticed there wasn’t an alarm. the 36-year-old died in his room next to his beloved dog, Nino.

“Two breaths and he was gone, it really singes your lungs.  People don’t realize that,” Bonnie explained.

Within a week of Greg’s death, the Gibsons, who live in Sultan, started setting up a non-profit to install free smoke alarms from the Red Cross anywhere they’re needed in Snohomish County.

They call the service Gibby and Nino’s Fire Prevention. The logo is a drawing of Greg and Nino as superheroes.

The idea is that all it takes to be a superhero is taking the right steps to protect your family.

Since March the Gibsons say more than 300 families have done just that, yet there are so many more who need smoke alarms.

Gerry says most homes need between three and nine smoke alarms and he can complete a whole house installation in about a half hour. He doesn’t know why anyone would say no to the free service.

The Gibsons go to safety fairs, mail out fliers, “but sometimes you can’t give them away,” Gerry says.

They say the majority of people do have smoke alarms -- they just don’t work. That was the case in the fire that severely burned a Spokane mother and her 7-year-old daughter over the weekend.

A lot of smoke detectors are old and full of dust. The Gibsons saw one last week that was the size of a frisbee.

Smoke alarms are supposed to be replaced every 10 years. The Gibsons know they won’t get to every one in Snohomish County, but maybe they will get to one in time to save someone else’s son.

“A smoke alarm gives you two minutes,” Gerry said.

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