September 24, 2013

Editorial: Assess homes for fire danger


---- — The stark reality of fire danger was dramatically illustrated last Friday when an apartment house in the City of Plattsburgh caught ablaze.

The early morning fire displaced 11 people and left one seriously injured. Firefighters arrived to find thick smoke, a street full of distraught and confused young people and a woman who was perilously close to death.

Fast-acting residents, skilled fire crews and working fire alarms contributed to last Friday’s fire not being an even greater disaster than it was. The cause appeared to be electrical, according to fire officials.

That fire should be a reminder to us all that fire can start unexpectedly and spread quickly. Every home should be equipped with warning systems, and everyone should take a few minutes to confirm that and to think about how they would react if they were awakened to a fire.

Next week is Fire Prevention Week, established in 1922 to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless and destroyed more than 17,400 structures.

North Country firefighters will observe the special week with activities, many of them involving schoolchildren. Firetruck rides, visits to schools and fire station open houses are being planned.

The lessons that firefighters will share and the information that will be provided is crucial knowledge. In an actual fire, there is little time to think about options; people must act swiftly.

This year’s theme is “Prevent Kitchen Fires,” with the National Fire Protection Association reporting that three in 10 home fires start in the kitchen, more than any other room. The association reported Monday that every 23 seconds, in the United States, a fire department responds to a fire.

Kitchen fires are considered to be one of the more preventable types of fires, yet many deaths and injuries each year are associated with cooking.

As you assess home fire safety, look around your kitchen and think about this advice from the Fire Prevention Association and First Alert:

▶ Keep flammable objects, such as kitchen towels, cookbooks and curtains at least 3 feet from the stovetop.

▶ Keep an eye on food that’s cooking. This includes microwave ovens, where incorrect cooking time can lead to sparks or fire. Think of a bag of popcorn that’s cooked too long.

▶ Don’t leave cooked food on top of the stove at any time. Pets can jump up to get it and inadvertently turn a burner on with their paws.

▶ Clean cooking surfaces regularly to prevent grease buildup, which can later ignite.

▶ Wear appropriate, form-fitting clothing when cooking to avoid cloth coming into contact with a flame or burner. Tie back longer hair.

▶ Don’t store food in the oven. It’s easy to forget there is something inside when preheating the oven.

▶ Never use a kitchen oven to heat your home; it’s a fire hazard and could give off toxic fumes.

Common sense? You bet. But worth a reminder.