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Let's fight fires before they start

With the ongoing fire recovery work from the devastating inferno of the Armory Building in Aberdeen as a backdrop, we want to talk again this week about how you can protect your life from fire.

As ancient as the world, fire has been around before civilization began. It will always be with us. While sometimes we have the illusion we have controlled it, it just takes one small unsuspected blaze to have that illusion go up in smoke!

So, better to be prepared to prevent fire, stop it early and also have a plan to fireproof your life. That way, if fire affects your home or business, you can control to some extent how disruptive it is to your life.


In talking with Aberdeen Fire Chief Tom Hubbard this week, he cited the leadership at Coastal Community Action Program (CCAP), which was housed in the Armory building, as expertly having prepared for a loss.

“CCAP is an example of an organization that had a good plan for smooth continuity of operations,” he said. “We were able to recover their computer servers from the basement, but if we hadn’t they had off-site servers, which had some 90 percent of the information needed.”

Whether a business or household, having key information stored separately can make the difference in how quickly you can recover from a fire – or other disaster – and how much it disrupts your life.

For businesses, off-site back-up of key computer information is important, but the same goes for a household, he said.

“I’ve never lost my wallet, but I’ve heard what a time-consuming headache that can be to deal with, the same is true if you were to lose important documents and information from your home,” he said.

Chief Hubbard suggests you gather things like passports, birth certificates, social security cards, mortgages, bank records, credit card numbers, insurance paperwork, thumb drives or other copies of important pictures and computer documents as well as a list of key passwords. Take these critical things (or at least copies of them) and place them in a fire-proof safe – or in another way – perhaps the Cloud on the Internet.


Fire is devastating,” Chief Hubbard said. “That is why prevention is so key.”

Once you have determined what the key information and valuables are and put them into safe keeping, then do what you can to protect yourself from fire.

Here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor we often talk about fire danger in the winter time. With holiday decorating, extra cooking, big gatherings and Christmas trees and lights, it’s a time of added hazards.

However, fire takes no holiday and there are plenty of fire concerns this time of year too.

The three main reasons for home fires are cooking accidents, electrical issues and not properly discarding smoking materials, Hubbard said. In addition, good housekeeping – can also contribute to better home safety from helping to prevent trips, slips and falls to making it less likely to have a house fire or at least not make a house fire worse by providing extra fuel.

“Just like your mom told you, clean up your room! Also make sure there isn’t stuff piled around heaters and that nothing is sitting on top of power cords,” he said.

For electrical concerns, one thing that Chief Hubbard pointed out is that your own electrical system might be trying to tell you that something is awry.

For instance, if you have a flickering light that is not fixed when the light bulb is changed, you may have a failing electrical fixture and it would be good to have an electrician take a look at it.

With fluorescent bulbs, if they begin to smell hot or smoky, turn the power off to the fixture, the ballast may be failing, which can cause an electrical fire. Then have an electrician inspect the light.

If a plug in an outlet has to be situated just right to work, that means something is loose. Also, if an outlet is warm or discolored, it too needs to be replaced.

Do you have a circuit breaker constantly going off in a certain room? If so, you may need to have it replaced.

“We often see people who have taped circuit breaker panels so that certain circuits can’t trip – often small businesses will do this to make sure certain lights or appliances stay on at night,” Hubbard said. “That’s a big mistake. Never do that. That breaker is there to protect you from fire!”

In the area of electrical fires, also remember to only use extension cords for temporary jobs. They should never be used as permanent wiring.

One last area to be aware of with electrical concerns is that for some reason rodents – particularly rats – seem to be drawn to chewing on wires. Those damaged wires can create arcs and sparks and potentially fires. Rats seem to especially like to hang out in attics with the old-style, fluffy insulation. If you see their trails or know they’ve been there, take a close look at those wires.


We will offer more fire safety and preservation tips next week. July 4 is just around the corner with fireworks and barbecues, let’s all plan ahead to celebrate safely.

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is executive director. This is a nonprofit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County. For questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or buying, call 360-533-7828 or visit 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen. Our office is fully ADA-compliant.

Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner or one of our contractors? We have rehab loan funds at tailored rates! Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen. Our office is ADA compliant, complete with a designated disabled parking spot, ramp and ADA compliant restroom.

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