Special Report: Smoke Detector Dangers

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - Losing your home to a fire is a traumatic experience. Life long memories, family photos and heirlooms can go up in flames, but that's nothing compared to losing a life.

That's why smoke detectors are so important.  Just ask Rich and Mary Jane Kurkjian.  The Kurkjians took no chances when it came to building their new home, where they have 14 smoke detectors. It's a far cry from the their old house, which caught fire in 2003. It had only one smoke detector, but that's all it took

"If it hadn't gone off, we wouldn't be here," Mary Jane said. "We were being put to sleep by the smoke and the carbon dioxide."

When it comes time to buying a smoke detector, you may feel a overwhelmed by all the choices. The most common and cheapest is the ionization detector. There's also the pricier photo electric, and the most expensive is the dual purpose, which is an ion and photo electric combined.

So what's the difference?

We line up the three different varieties on the ceiling of a trailer home to see which detector would go off first.  In just 21 seconds, the dual purpose detector went off, followed by the photo electric ten seconds later. The ionization smoke detector was the last to sound off, taking 45 seconds.

Despite the differences in time, Captain Adam Goldberg of the Northwest Fire District in Tucson, Arizona says it's imperative to have a smoke detector in your house.

"A photo electric detector will read that very minute, thin type of smoke faster than would an ionization type detector, but if you have a very thick, large fire burning in your home that's producing a lot of black smoke, the ionization will pick it up just as fast," Goldberg said.

Goldberg suggests homeowners use the photo electric or dual purpose detectors in living areas, especially in bedrooms, because of their sensitivity to light smoke.

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