AUGUSTA – In the wake of Maine’s deadliest fire in 40 years, Maine officials are working to install smoke detectors in homes for free.

State Fire Marshal Joseph Thomas said his office received 1,000 smoke detectors from the Southern Maine Community College, which is using a grant to distribute the devices.

Thomas said smoke detectors will be installed by Red Cross volunteers. Thomas said they’ll start with a practice round on Saturday in Biddeford and formally kick off the program later this month.

In his weekly radio address, Republican Gov. Paul LePage said that the goal is to ensure that smoke detectors are in every home. He said more than one-third of home fire deaths occur when there is no smoke alarm.

The Nov. 1 fire on Noyes Street in Portland resulted in the deaths of six people, including Steven Summers, who died as the result of severe burns four days following the blaze. Tenants of the house have stated in interviews with attorneys that smoke detectors were missing or not working at the time of the fire.

In contrast, residents of the apartment building leveled by fire on Friday in Augusta said smoke detectors were working. All 23 residents escaped and survived.

Thomas said his office is looking into getting more donations to continue the program once the 1,000 are distributed.

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