‘Extinguishers for Cindy’ aims to gather lessons from recent tragedy south of London, Ont.

"Extinguishers for Cindy" saw Tony Bendel (centre) team up with St. Thomas Fire Department's chief fire prevention officer Bill Todd (left) and Malahide Township Fire Chief Brent Smith for a public safety video. Andrew Graham / Global News

The personal friend of a woman who died in a crash south of London, Ont., last month hopes a new public safety campaign will prevent similar tragedies in the future.

On Oct. 2, Cindy Devine of St. Thomas was killed in a two-vehicle collision near Highbury Avenue South and Glanworth Drive.

London police say the 35-year-old mother was pronounced dead at the scene. The other driver, a 23-year-old man from St. Thomas, suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

He was later charged with a number of impaired driving-related offences.

Cindy Devine with her husband Richard and children. Supplied by Christine Rozon

“I just feel like I need to do this for Cindy,” said Tony Bendel, who launched “Extinguishers for Cindy” earlier this week, nearly a month after the crash that claimed the life of his friend.

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The campaign aims to emphasize the importance of carrying fire extinguishers in vehicles. Its launch was accompanied by a Facebook post that has garnered more than 2,000 shares as of Wednesday afternoon.

“I knew it was going to go fairly big around here, but how fast it’s grown is pretty wild,” said Bendel, adding that he’s received messages of support from folks in other countries, including Germany and Australia.

Bendel, who runs St. Thomas-based video and DVD production company Bendel Productions, is also including a filmed portion for the campaign that will enlist the help of the St. Thomas Fire Department’s chief fire prevention officer Bill Todd.

Tony Bendel (left) and St. Thomas Fire Department’s chief fire prevention officer Bill Todd film an instructional video about having fire extinguishers in vehicles. Andrew Graham / Global News

“A car fire is a nasty thing,” said Todd, adding that these types of blazes are often coupled with harmful smoke and toxins that can be lethal to those without personal protective equipment.

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Todd told Global News that fire extinguishers won’t replace the need for assistance from firefighters, nor will they be the solution for every vehicle fire, but they may serve as a life-saving tool.

“It’s more something that if you get on scene or come upon a scene that’s going on, and the fire is in a small enough position that you can safely fight it, that’s when we would have you do it,” Todd said.

“Again, you have to be very careful. Don’t become a casualty.”

Another benefit to having fire extinguishers in vehicles, Todd said, is that there are virtually no issues with storing them inside.

“Weather isn’t an issue with them. The biggest thing you want to do is make sure that it’s taken care of properly, make sure that it gets all of its safety checks before you go to use it and make sure it’s going to work if you need it,” Todd said.

The fire safety expert recommends storing a 2A/10BC extinguisher inside vehicles or homes.

Malahide Township Fire Chief Brent Smith demonstrates proper use of a fire extinguisher. Andrew Graham / Global News

On top of the video campaign, Bendel has also launched a fundraiser that aims to purchase fire extinguishers for drivers who want one but can’t afford one.

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Bendel says he has also reached out to Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek and Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Karen Vecchio for legislative help on having fire extinguishers installed in vehicles.

“Maybe we can get a private member’s bill and see if we can get a law passed that maybe from this day forward, new cars, they have to come out with (fire extinguishers),” Bendel said.

“I am well aware of this local tragedy and the work Tony is doing to translate the community’s pain into a meaningful public safety initiative,” Yurek said in an email to Global News.

“I look forward to continued work with Tony and doing whatever I can to support his efforts.”

Bendel’s campaign is still in the early stages, with day one of filming having wrapped up on Wednesday. Bendel plans to conclude the video with a look back into Devine’s life.

“I don’t want people to forget who she was.”

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