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Peoria Housing Authority, fire department partner to bring safer stove burners to Sterling Towers

Peoria Housing Authority CEO Armeca Crawford speaks at the podium in front of signs promoting the SmartBurner fire prevention system as Peoria Fire Department Division Chief of Fire Prevention Nate Rice and Will Boake of Pioneering Technologies listen during a news conference Thursday at Sterling Towers.
Joe Deacon
/
WCBU
Peoria Housing Authority CEO Armeca Crawford speaks at the podium in front of signs promoting the SmartBurner fire prevention system as Peoria Fire Department Division Chief of Fire Prevention Nate Rice and Will Boake of Pioneering Technologies listen during a news conference Thursday at Sterling Towers.

The residents of a Peoria Housing Authority high-rise apartment building are getting new, safer burners for their stove tops at no cost.

The upgrades at Sterling Towers started Thursday through a partnership between the PHA and the Peoria Fire Department. Each of the approximately 180 units in the building at 2601 W. Reservoir Blvd. will have their existing coil burners replaced with the SmartBurner system manufactured by Pioneering Technology.

“We know that cooking fires are responsible for over 50% of fires, and that's not only true in the city of Peoria, but that's true nationwide, according to the National Fire Protection Association,” said PFD Division Chief of Fire Prevention Nate Rice.

“We knew that having a product like smart burners, and having the ability to put smart burners into residential units, specifically at Sterling Towers, was going to be a significant change and a very proactive move.”

Rice said the project derived from renewed community risk reduction efforts and how they interpret statistical information on fires throughout the city, drawing on training that began in October.

“When we ran our data from the years of 2018-2022, what we found is that the leading address for cooking fires in the city of Peoria was right here at Sterling Towers, and it was significant – almost double of the next address after that,” Rice said.

PHA chief executive officer Armeca Crawford found that revelation alarming.

“That was troubling, and not only was it troubling, (but) there was an opportunity for us to increase safety to our residents who reside not only in Sterling Towers, but in the immediate area in the event that an occurrence should take place and it should get out of control,” Crawford said.

John Ray Jones, a PHA commissioner and Sterling Towers resident, applauded the project.

“Sterling Towers has had trouble getting attention the last 20 years, and I'm not exaggerating that,” Jones said. “Armeca and her team, and the Board of Commissioners and everything, have done more for Sterling Towers in the last six months than what’s been done in 20 years, and I'm not making that up.”

The SmartBurners have built-in thermostats that prevents stove tops from reaching dangerous temperatures, with a maximum of 662 degrees Fahrenheit – nearly 1,000 degrees below the typical peak for normal electric coils.

The burners use less energy and are expected to last at least seven years. A set of four costs approximately $265.

“The technology itself is a very simple plug-and-play technology,” said Will Boake, executive vice president of business development at Pioneering Technology. “This is a solution to all existing electrical stoves that will absolutely help prevent cooking fires, which is the number one cause of household fires within the nation.

“The technology has been around for about 20 years now; it's been mainstream for the last 5-10 years. We have installed over 1.6 million burners across the nation with zero fires, which is an incredible stat.”

Crawford said the project is funded through capital fund grants awarded to the PHA by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Each year, HUD allots every public housing authority an allocation of funding, which we call capital funds. With that funding, it allows for upgrades and management improvements, such as what we're doing with the SmartBurners,” she said. “We've added these upgrades to our annual plan, which was approved by HUD and our Board of Commissioners.”

Crawford said the SmartBurners function both as an improved safety measure and a fiscally responsible step.

“The insurance deductible on one claim following damages from a fire – whether it's water damage, smoke damage, fire damage – is $25,000 per claim,” Crawford said. “The cost to install a set of smart burners, it's about $250, right? So I started thinking not only can we increase safety, let's look at this from an economic standpoint.”

Crawford said once the initiative at Sterling Towers is complete, they will monitor its effectiveness over a period of time and then consider the possibility of installations at other PHA properties when additional federal money is available.

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.