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'It's nice to have an alarm so we feel safe': Multi-gas alarm distribution begins in Wheatley

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Nearly two and a half years after the downtown Wheatley gas explosion, Wheatley residents are now able to claim a free multi-gas alarm as Chatham-Kent Fire & Rescue officials deliver and distribute 1,000 devices across the small community.

The multi-functional carbon monoxide, propane, and natural gas alarms are capable of providing continuous monitoring for their lifespan of seven years and can be picked up at the Wheatley Village Resource Centre if fire officials were unable to deliver them personally.

Assistant Fire Chief Neil Woods said the goal is promote community safety.

“I believe it's a step towards healing. It's going to take a long time to heal from this incident, that's for sure.”

Woods explained the alarms are intended to give residents some reassurance, and noted the municipality reminds residents that if they detect or suspect gas in their home to call 9-1-1 immediately.

“The community still is hurting and it's just starting to get going more and more now,” Woods said.

“I think it's nice that we're going to, hopefully, get back to normal soon,” added Wheatley resident Kellie Adamson. “It's nice to have an alarm so we feel safe.”

The alarms are being paid for using a provincial grant from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, who provided $280,000 in funding to implement local priority projects to enhance emergency preparedness within its communities and prevent petroleum-related emergencies.

Adamson said, “It'd be nice if we could get the downtown looking back to normal and just carry on.”

“We're still trying to recover. I don't think that we've gotten through the whole process of that yet,” said Susan Fulmer, founder and CEO of the Wheatley Village Resource Centre.

Fulmer said the reassurance campaign is another step towards closure for residents, following the August 2021 explosion that rocked the downtown core, “It has its ups and downs. It has its moments. Sometimes you feel positive. Sometimes you feel like there's setbacks. Sometimes you wonder what's happening.”

“I think it helps the process. I don't know that we're at closure yet. But the Village Resource Centre was created to help our neighbours thrive, and so whatever that looks like, in the purpose of handing out these alarms, if that's part of the process for them, then that's what we're happy to do,” said Fulmer.

Door-to-door alarm distribution will continue inside the evacuation zone throughout the next several days while those outside the evacuation zone can get theirs at the Village Resource Centre at 108 Talbot Rd. E., Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“We are giving them out to the businesses also,” Woods added. “You’ll see us this week and maybe next week still going door-to-door to households handing these detectors out.”

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