Why I help: Bay Area volunteer Daren Olson

By Sharon J. Alfred


Red Cross HFC Volunteer Daren Olson poses with “Sparky,” who is the fire prevention mascot for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District.

Daren Olson is a firefighter with 30 years’ experience, so when he retired it was natural for him to become a volunteer with the American Red Cross’ Home Fire Campaign (HFC). During his many years as a firefighter, he saw smoke alarms in all sorts of conditions. Olson recalled, “Once, I saw a melted smoke alarm sitting on the counter!” He never wants to see that again.

Preventing home fire is a subject near and dear to his heart. That’s one of the main reasons he volunteers on the HFC campaign with the Red Cross. He is the Contra Costa County HFP administrator/coordinator. When he’s volunteering there are two people he looks to for guidance.  They are: Diane Dupuy, the Volunteer Chair, and Allison Biddinger, the interim Disaster Services program manager.

As the HFP administrator, he spends a fair amount of time recruiting others to volunteer. But he also goes out on home visits to install smoke alarms and give educational talks to homeowners about fire prevention. He explained that Red Cross actually sends a team of three people out to visit a home; that the home visit only lasts for 20-25 minutes. One person installs the smoke alarm, another person gives fire education/prevention tips to the homeowners, and lastly, the third person double checks the smoke alarm installation and does the paperwork indicating that the home has been serviced.

Olson reminds everyone that “fires double in size every 30 seconds, which makes early detection even more critical to life safety.” He urges each and every homeowner to install the smoke alarms that are good for 10 years (no battery replacement needed).

  • You too can be a part of the Red Cross’ lifesaving Home Fire Campaign. Learn how here.
  • This story was originally published on this page of the Red Cross Exchange. Its author, Sharon Alfred, is a senior associate-lead project editor in the Red Cross’ Washington D.C. offices.