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After a devastating fire, grieving parents launch mission to install thousands of smoke detectors

Bonnie and Gerry Gibson named their nonprofit after their son, Greg "Gibby" Gibson.
Gabriel Spitzer
Bonnie and Gerry Gibson named their nonprofit after their son, Greg "Gibby" Gibson.

This story originally aired on February 14, 2020.

Bonnie Gibson says her son Greg’s musical talent emerged very early on. 

“I could just see from a young age that he had unusual rhythm. Which, now, I go, did I really want those drums in my basement?” she said. “But it was cute and fun to see a little kid kind of find himself.”

Greg did find himself in music. By high school, he was already involved in the business side, booking bands.  

“I would get a phone call from somebody in, like, Chicago or something. And he had somehow, they knew his name and they were trying to get to Seattle to do a venue,” Bonnie recalls. 

By the time Greg “Gibby” Gibson was in his 20s and 30s, he was a busy local promoter, handling the bookings at Tim’s Tavern in Seattle, planning shows and benefit concerts. 

He had a reputation for looking out for the bands — making sure they got paid, even if it meant giving up his own cut. Of course, no one was getting rich. For years, Greg had lived in the basement unit of a run-down house in Shoreline with his faithful pitbull, Nino. 

Then in the early-morning hours of Jan. 8, 2016, that house caught fire. Greg didn’t survive. He and his dog were found together. 

“It's a nightmare,” said Greg’s father, Gerry Gibson. "He died of smoke inhalation. He couldn't get out.” 

When the Gibsons arrived at the house that morning, Greg’s sister Colleen was already there. 

“The first thing she says was, ‘There’s no smoke alarms, there’s no smoke alarms. We have to do something,’” Gerry recalled. “So the idea started right there.” 

The idea was that no one should live without a smoke alarm, and the fighting chance it gives people to survive. 

Within two months, the Gibsons launched a nonprofit: Gibby Home Fire Prevention. They partner with the Red Cross to install free smoke alarms in people’s homes all over the region. To date, they’ve installed more than 4,000. 

Bonnie and Gerry Gibson talked with Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer about what made Greg so special, and how they managed to turn such senselessness into something constructive.