Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire which began on October 8, 1871, and burned through October 9, 1871. The tragic fire killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, and burned more than 2,000 acres. Legend has it that the fire was started by a milking cow kicking over a lamp in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn. The week is observed as a way to keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention.
I visited my local fire department, the City of Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS, and spoke with Fire Marshal Mark Yates and Fire Chief Robbie Rose to find out what fire hazards they see most often and how we can use this information to help prevent fires in the future.
Cooking represents the leading cause of home fires, most often occurring after something is put on the stove and forgotten about. We had a customer several years ago call our office to thank us and tell us how the smoke detector that was tied into her alarm system had saved her home. She put a pot of beans on to simmer and went out to mow her lawn. She lost track of how long she had been outside and the next thing she knew the fire trucks were pulling into her driveway. They were able to get the fire out before it caused much damage. Not all homeowners are so lucky.
Some easy ways to avoid cooking fires are:
- Never leave the kitchen when frying or boiling food.
- Use a timer when you have something in the oven.
- Always check the kitchen before you go to bed.
2. CARELESS SMOKING
Careless smoking is the leading cause of residential fire deaths. Many things in your home can catch on fire if they touch something hot like a cigarette. It is always safer to smoke outside. You should always make sure your cigarette is put out all the way. Put water on the ashes and butts to make sure they are really out before you put them in the trash. Never smoke in bed and do not smoke after taking medicine that will make you sleepy.
3. PORTABLE SPACE HEATERS
Portable heaters are high wattage appliances that have the potential to ignite if they are placed near curtains, beds, paper or flammable liquids. You should always make sure the heater is placed on a stable, level surface and locate it where it will not get knocked over.
Chief Rose told me about several local stories in which homes had been destroyed by fire caused by a grill being under a carport area or inside a garage. He said sometimes when it rains folks move the grills under a covered area which is a no-no. Grills should be at least 25 feet away from your house or any building.
Candle fires account for approximately four percent of all US residential fires. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests 85% of candle fires could be avoided if we followed these three basic safety rules.
- Never leave a burning candle unattended.
- Never burn a candle on or near anything that might catch on fire.
- Always keep candles out of reach of children and pets.
There are simple things we can all do to help prevent household fires. But as we all know, things happen. Chief Rose also stressed the importance of being prepared in the event of a fire. Having fire extinguishers and working smoke alarms in the home, as well as an escape plan, are extremely important for every family.
Have you had a close call with a fire in your home? We’d like to hear your story and what important things you learned to avoid the threat of fire at home.