Some four decades ago, Roberta Ash and her family suffered an unthinkable loss. Her son, Brian David Ash, died in a house fire in Meriden while at a sleepover.
Worse yet, Brian may have survived the incident had there been a smoke detector in the home.
Several years after the tragedy, Ash began raising money to support the Meriden Fire Department’s fire prevention and education efforts, including the importance of smoke detectors.
And her mission continues to this day, but is coming to an end.
“This is it,” Ash said of her final fundraiser, slated for next week. “It’s been 32 years. I’m getting older and no one wants to take over. It’s a lot of work for me.”
The fundraiser – an annual event – will be held Sept. 7, 8 and 9, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., outside the Stop & Shop supermarket on Broad Street. It will feature a raffle of 40 gift baskets and, per usual, hot dogs, chips and soda.
Over the years, Ash said this fundraiser has generated more than $100,000 and has helped the Meriden Fire Department buy and distribute smoke detectors.
Also, Fire Chief Kenneth Morgan said the event funds education during National Fire Prevention Week. Morgan explained that prevention specialist go to Meriden schools to teach fire prevention to students, including the importance of smoke detectors.
“Her contribution is invaluable,” the chief said of Ash.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, three out of five home fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms. And the USFA reports that the risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke detectors.
Looking back on her work, and remembering her son, Ash said, “It’s very important because I don’t want to have anyone go through this again.”
Roberta Ash and her family can be confident that their efforts very likely have saved lives. While the city of Meriden will miss her contributions, she’s leaving quite a legacy behind.