Fire prevention taken to new levels in Lake Elmo, North St. Paul

The Lake Elmo Fire Department is launching a new home safety program for residents called Safe Haven. The program involves a check list of safety questions Lake Elmo residents will receive in the mail the week of Jan. 22 to help them perform home safety self-evaluations. 

Fire Capt. Nick Witter, who is spearheading the program, explained that the list includes recommendations regarding fire prevention, such as removing any towels hanging above the stove, as well as crime prevention tips, such as storing cash away from windows.

In addition to the self-evaluations, the Safe Haven program allows residents to request free services from the fire department. For example, residents can request firefighters to perform home safety inspections, check smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries and replace batteries and detectors as needed. 

“We certainly have an elderly population and some people that just aren’t capable of doing some of those things for themselves, so we want to become partners with them in that,” Witter said. 

Safe Haven isn’t just for elderly residents, though. Witter explained the program offers many different kinds of services. A few more examples include the installation of firestop devices above stoves, access to first aid classes and crime prevention inspections by the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, which has partnered with the fire department on the program.

“Most of the emphasis is on the fire side of it,” Witter said. “But there’s a little bit of a partnership with law enforcement as well because the Safe Haven program is literally what it sounds like: we want you to be as safe as possible in your home, and so that is a combination of both crime prevention and fire prevention.”

Witter explained that he began looking for a program like Safe Haven a few years ago when he took on the role of fire prevention officer because he wanted to offer residents something more tangible than just fire safety coloring books. 

“I still have some stickers and hats for the kids, of course, but I want them [and adults] to actually have an experience with the fire department,” Witter explained, saying he found just what he was looking for in the Safe Haven program, which worked out well because it was already developed and in use in other area communities.

He acknowledged that although the program is new to Lake Elmo, it has been growing in popularity with fire departments in the area. He noted that the Lake Elmo Fire Department was initially inspired by North St. Paul’s version of the program, and that the nearby community was willing to share information to help Lake Elmo’s program get off the ground.


Meeting each community’s needs

SafeHaven — the program goes by a one-word name in North St. Paul — was inspired by a St. Paul program of the same name. It began in late 2016, and since then the North St. Paul Fire Department has completed home safety inspections in almost 90 homes, according to Lt. Daniel Krier.

“The main goal, and this is just one of those ways that we are trying to achieve it, is to have every house have new smoke alarms within the next ten years,” Krier said.

Although the program in Lake Elmo was modeled off North St. Paul’s, each city has tailored the programs to meet needs specific to their residents.

For example, while Lake Elmo has partnered with the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, which handles the city’s police work, North St. Paul has rolled a fall prevention program into the mix and refers residents to the city’s police department for concerns specific to crime prevention.

Both cities offer their programs to residents for free, and each has established its own partnerships to help make that possible.

North St. Paul has partnered with the American Red Cross, which donates smoke alarms for the program. Krier explained that for the past three years, the city has also allocated about $5,000 in the budget toward the program’s other expenses like printed materials, carbon monoxide alarms and stovetop firestop devices.

According to Witter, the Lake Elmo program is being funded as part of the existing fire department budget, with supplements from community partners. The city has also secured a grant to pay for stovetop firestops and found a group interested in teaming up on a fundraiser.

“I’m pretty excited,” Witter said. “I really think this is going to be great.”


For more information on Lake Elmo’s Safe Haven program, visit

For more information about North St. Paul’s SafeHaven program, pick up a brochure at North St. Paul City Hall or visit


– Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or

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