If you were doing what I was doing last Friday a little before one o’clock in the afternoon, then you were finishing up lunch. If you were a member of our Department of Public Safety, then you were rushing to a fire scene in one of our residential neighborhoods.
The homeowners weren’t home when their alarm system detected a possible fire in their house. Within minutes public safety personnel were on the scene, fire engines were primed and ready, and a team of trained personnel had entered the home to locate and extinguish the fire and to evacuate anyone who might be in the home. Public Safety Officers assigned to patrol our streets that day were also on the scene and were part of the team that entered the house. Volunteer firefighters left their jobs and families and met the full time personnel on the scene. By the time I arrived, less than ten minutes after the initial call, volunteers and full time personnel had set up equipment, entered the home, and determined that a faulty heating unit had triggered the alarm. No significant fire damage occurred and no one was hurt. Although this fire turned out to be a small electrical incident, this incident should serve as a reminder how fast a fire can start, and how quickly it can change your life.
When the city’s fire trucks arrive, it is often too late for you to protect your home and property from fire damage. Our team of highly trained public safety officers are very good at what they do, but a fire in your home can double in size every 2.5 minutes. The City and the Department of Public Safety encourage you to protect yourself from fire by following just a few simple steps.
First, make sure you have a working smoke detector in your home. You should have one on every floor of your house, and in or near each bedroom. Over half of all fire related deaths occur in homes without working smoke detectors, so it is important to have smoke detectors and to maintain them in good working condition.
Secondly, teach your children fire safety practices regarding matches, electrical outlets, electrical cords, candles, and any other devices that could spark a fire. You should also develop a plan and practice evacuating your home so that your children know how to escape if your house catches fire. Don’t assume you will be able to rush into their room and escort them to safety. Make sure they know how to escape on their own if you are cut off from them by fire.
Many structure fires are sparked by space heaters. Make sure your space heater is properly maintained, and keep it at least three feet away from anything that can burn. Please turn it off before you fall asleep or before you leave the room that the heater is in. If you use a kerosene heater you should avoid filling it with gasoline. Gasoline fumes are highly volatile and will burn easily. Try to place the heater out of high traffic areas to minimize the risk of the heater being knocked over. You should only refill kerosene heaters outside after they have cooled off.
Finally, our city streets are very busy most of the time. At one o’clock in the afternoon you might find that it can be difficult to maneuver the family mini-van through downtown Clinton, and navigating a 28,000 pound fire truck quickly through our busy city streets is no small task. If you see a fire truck or emergency vehicle approaching with its warning lights and sirens activated, please move your vehicle safely out of its way so it can get quickly past you. You never know – that fire engine might just be racing to your house.