Fire prevention week is Oct. 7-13 this year.
Unfortunately, we in Grays Harbor are all too aware of the destruction of fire. Fresh in our minds and hearts is the devastating blaze June 9 that destroyed the Aberdeen Museum, as well as the offices for Coastal Community Action Program and the Aberdeen Senior Center, all housed in the massive 1922 Armory Building.
And, most of us also remember the nearby destruction of the 1909 Weatherwax building on the Aberdeen High School campus in January of 2002.
The City of Aberdeen also had overwhelming fires in 1887, 1889, and again on Oct. 16, 1903.
Nearby in Seattle, in 1889, a devastating conflagration wiped out the entire business district of that booming young city.
FIRE PREVENTION WEEK HISTORY
However, it was the Great Chicago that burned on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9 of 1871 that is the inspiration for the annual national weeklong emphasis on fire prevention each October.
In that blaze, more than 250 people were killed, and some 10,000 left homeless as the fire burned more than 2,000 acres, gobbling some 17,400 structures in its path.
Most people are aware of the Chicago Fire with its accompanying legend of Catherine O’Leary’s cow starting the whole thing by kicking over a lamp in a barn. This was one of the major fires that changed the way firefighters and public officials thought about public safety.
It was some 40 years later that the Fire Marshals Association of North America decided that the day was best remembered by keeping the public informed about the importance of fire prevention.
THIS YEAR’S PREVENTION THEME
This year’s Fire Prevention Week’s theme is “Look, Listen, Learn. Be aware—fire can happen anywhere.” These three simple calls to action identify basic but essential ways people can reduce their risk of fire and be prepared in the event of one.
Look for places fire can start.
Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm.
Learn two ways out of each room.
“People take safety for granted and are not aware of the risk of fire,” said Lorraine Carli, the vice president of Outreach and Advocacy of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). “Paying attention to your surroundings, looking for available exits in the event of a fire or other emergency, and taking the smoke alarm seriously if it sounds, can make a potentially life-saving difference in a fire or other emergency situation,” she said.
While this year’s Fire Prevention Week messages apply to virtually all locations, the association continues to focus primarily on preventing home fires.
For one reason, the majority of U.S. fire deaths – four out of five – occur at home each year. And, the death rate (per 1,000 home fires reported to the fire department) in 2016 was up 10 percent from what it was in 1980!
“While we’ve made significant progress in preventing home fires from happening,” Carli said, “these statistics show that there’s still much more work to do when it comes to teaching people how to protect themselves in the event of one, and why advance planning is so critically important.”
HOME HEATING FIRES
With home fire prevention, many aspects need to be considered. Today we want to focus on prevention of house fires by heating equipment. Heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fire deaths, but a few simple safety tips can help prevent most heating fires.
Half of home heating fires occur during the months of December, January and February. So, now is an especially good time to address any concerns.
Here are some heating safety tips from the National Fire Protection Association:
Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment such as a fireplace, furnace, wood stove or portable space heater.
Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
Never use your oven to heat your home.
Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
Always turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room.
Wait for ashes to be cool before putting them into a metal container. And, keep that container a safe distance from your home.
Test smoke alarms at least once a month.
Install wood burning stoves following manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional do so. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
In addition to having smoke alarms, also install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance! Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department and gas company. Knowing how to turn off the gas at your meter is an important prevention measure that nearly anyone can do!
There are many other ways to prevent home fires. We will discuss some of them next week!
LOOKING FOR QUALITY CONTRACTORS
We at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor are always on the lookout for quality home rehabilitation contractors. Women and minority contractors are encouraged to apply to our contractor bidding pool. We use written scopes of work and contracts. Prompt payment is guaranteed!