Giving Back and Giving Big

4/20/2008 Fresno, CA Oprah's big give brought out big crowds of volunteers Saturday morning.

A channel 30 camera tagged along in Parlier and Easton as hundreds of volunteers and firefighters from Cal Fire went door to door installing free smoke detectors in homes without one or replacing batteries in existing alarms.

Easton resident Steven Fletcher said, "It means they're interested in my well being and serving the community."

The scope of this "Big Give" is massive. Mike Bowman, a Cal Fire Captain said "5,077 homes we'll be knocking on today in four communities and these communities are 75 miles apart."

What seemed impossible is very possible because of a $10,000 donation from Oprah to ABC 30. She challenged us to find a worthy cause and give big. "It feels great helping people" said Sylvia Escalante.

It's Sylvia's tragedy that inspired the smoke detector program. In February 2007 her two young daughters Ruvi and Anna died when their home burned to the ground. Several crucial minutes passed before anyone noticed the burning home because it didn't have a smoke detector. "It's not easy living with yourself knowing that your daughters could have been saved."

It's that unimaginable burden that drives Sylvia to personally educate the community about the crucial role detectors play in saving lives. "The more houses I go to the more sad it gets for me because a lot of them don't have smoke detectors."

Homeowner Gloria Sanchez said, "I never had one before this is the first time. That's nice, that's good."

Cal Fire captain Mike Bowman says keeping the program going can be a challenge because it's based on donations. "So for this donation to come forward and the amount of help that's come up through ABC 30 and Oprah's help, it's incredible. And I think that's what it's all about."

The "Early Detection Program" has made a huge impact in saving lives around the valley. In the past year Cal Fire has installed one thousand smoke alarms in six communities. Also, the original ten thousand dollar donation has mushroomed. The program has now collected more than $100,000 in donations.

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