There have been no fire-related deaths in Sioux Falls this year, but that doesn’t mean you should just sit back and relax. 

That number is as low as it goes because of the constant efforts of Sioux Falls Fire Rescue, property managers and residents checking and re-checking smoke detectors around town. The National Fire Protection Association says three out of every five home fire deaths in the country are a direct result of homes or apartments not having smoke alarms or having alarms that aren’t working. 

You see the video and hear the reports of home and apartment fires in Sioux Falls often. Thankfully, every resident since the fall of 2013 has gotten out safely. Fire Inspector Tyler Tjeerdsma says working smoke detectors play a big role in protecting lives in an era where new construction materials leave little time for escape. 

“You got less time to get out of your home. It used to be with the older homes, you had 15 minutes to get out of your home if you had a fire. Nowadays, it’s two to five minutes and your house, you’re going to have a big fire going where it might be too late to get out,” Tjeerdsma said. 

Scott Fritz rents a house from Real Property Management Express in the Sioux Falls area. He said growing up, smoke alarms weren’t around when his family had a near-catastrophe.

“They’re hugely important. My parents’ house actually burned down when I was a child. So I am very aware of them. I also own fire extinguishers which I highly recommend everybody do that as well,” Fritz said. 

The house he rents these days has eight working smoke detectors. It’s a big difference from how things used to be. 

“We could just see the haze in the air and smell it and got out in time,” Fritz said. 

While there aren’t laws requiring landlords or property managers to check smoke detectors, Sioux Falls Fire Rescue strongly suggests to each group in town to inspect them monthly or have the resident do the test.

What KELOLAND News found, is that several companies do the check themselves two to four times a year. Josh Kattenberg with Real Property said staying on top of his 550 properties takes organization.   

“To check smoke detectors, it’s one of those things you forget about. Even in my own house, sad to say, I don’t do it like I should. My rental properties get done better than my own house. So it comes down to have good systems and good processes and discipline that every month we’re calling a set number of people, giving them notice. Hey we’re going to come out. We’re going to check them. We’re going to change batteries if needed, change your furnace filter. See if there is any maintenance. Just do a set amount every week, like clockwork,” Kattenberg said.  

When it comes to new buildings, like Eastside Townhomes operated by Lloyd Companies, fire codes play a big role in making sure renters are taken care of in case of a fire. Many new smoke detectors are now dual-purpose and can detect carbon monoxide as well.  

“If they have a fuel burning appliance or an attached garage they are required to have a carbon monoxide detector. So like the unit we’re in today, does have an attached garage and it also has a fuel burning appliance, the furnace is natural gas. So it has to have a carbon monoxide detector and it has to have a smoke alarm in each bedroom and one outside of the bedroom,” Tjeerdsma said. 

Luke Jessen with Lloyd Companies says its 4,000 properties get inspected in the spring and the fall, but maintenance crews can be called in whenever residents have a concern. 

“We’re more than happy to check them for our residents if they give us a call and say, hey I was just questioning, I maybe was cooking and didn’t notice it go off or something. Or maybe the opposite, they saw lights not flashing on it or something. We’re more than happy to get in there right away and check it out,” Luke Jessen said.  

If your landlord isn’t as responsive, you can call your local fire inspector.

Tjeersdma says his staff is always available to stop by and make sure things are working properly and in the correct locations. Those resources are available because without smoke detectors, the death rate is twice as high in homes nationally than it is in properties that have working alarms. 

“The smoke is going to obviously rise and then start billowing down along the walls. In a matter of minutes it could be too late for you to get out,” Tjeerdsma said. 

Testing alarms and changing batteries frequently are little things companies can do to prevent a tragedy. 

“Do you really want to have that on your conscience that your smoke detector didn’t work and their six-year-old is no longer with us because we didn’t take that step,” Kattenberg said. 

Smoke alarms older than 10 years need to be replaced. If you own your home, Sioux Falls Fire Rescue will provide you with free detectors.