WALKER, LA (WAFB) - An elderly woman in Walker has a strong message for homeowners who have long ignored smoke detectors in their homes. She says the device saved her life.
Edith Ossawski takes pride in the memories she has captured on her small digital camera, but as she scrolls through the last year's worth of photos, a certain set of photographs start to tear into her heart.
"It could have been the death of us because if I couldn't have found him [husband] I would have stayed in the house until I found him," said Ossawski.
Ossawski says her small house caught fire in December of 2016 when her husband, who has early signs of dementia, accidentally started a grease fire while trying to make coffee in the kitchen. Ossawski says she was asleep. "I came out of the bedroom and the first thing I saw was the flames all the way to the ceiling, and he was standing in the kitchen just looking at it," she said.
Ossawski is almost done rebuilding her kitchen, but she believes had it not been for the sound of the smoke alarm in the hallway, things would have turned out very differently. "It would have been too late. Even if I would have smelled the smoke without the fire alarm, I wouldn't have been able to find him because the house filled up with smoke that fast," said Ossawski.
As Ossawski works to rebuild her kitchen, it's a constant reminder of just how lucky she was. "We've had a significant fire problem in Louisiana for many years," she said.
Louisiana State Fire Marshal Butch Browning says the colder months are always a challenge for firefighters, mostly because homeowners don't install or maintain smoke detectors. As part of Operation Save a Life, a program which started nine years ago, local firefighters provide and install free alarms to people who ask for them. Browning says it's not an accessory, but a necessity for every home.
"If you go to bed tonight and you can't answer the question, 'Do I have a smoke alarm in my home that is working?' then you shouldn't go to bed," said Browning.
Ossawski says if her story helps save just one person, it was worth sharing.
"It's the one thing in the house you need to pay attention to because it could mean life or death," said Ossawski.
Click here to apply for a free smoke alarm.