Fire-proof your home:
The following are a few fireproofing measures for safety-conscious homeowners.
• Install smoke detectors and check the batteries regularly. Smoke inhalation causes many fire-related deaths. A smoke detector should be installed outside of every bedroom and on every level of the house. Don’t install a smoke detector near a window, door or forced-air register, where drafts could interfere with the detector’s operation. Be sure to routinely check that every smoke detector is working properly.
• Have a fire extinguisher in an easily accessible location. Ideally, there should be a fire extinguisher in every room of the home, but at least keep one wherever fire is used regularly, such as a kitchen or by a fireplace.
• Remove combustible materials from around the house. Do not allow old clothing, rags, newspapers or cardboard boxes to accumulate around the house. Discard newspapers and magazines as quickly as possible and be careful to avoid storing anything too close to heaters, furnaces or electrical equipment.
The Hinesville Fire Department recently joined with the National Fire Protection Association for Fire Prevention Week to remind residents of fire safety. From Oct. 6-12, the fire department provided information to residents about the dangers of kitchen fires and taught them how to prevent fires in their homes.
”Kitchen fires are the primary cause of structural fires in the home,” Hinesville Fire Department Capt. Andra Hart said. “We hope that Fire Prevention Week will help us reach people in the community before they’ve suffered a damaging lesson.”
According to NFPA.org, U.S. fire departments responded in 2011 to 370,000 home-structure fires, which caused 13,910 injuries and 2,520 deaths. NFPA research also determined cooking is the leading cause of home fires.
“Often when we’re called to a fire that started in the kitchen, the residents tells us that they only left the kitchen for a few minutes,” Hart said. “Sadly, that’s all it takes for a dangerous fire to start.”
Firefighters advise families to stay in the kitchen when cooking, wear clothing with tight-fitting sleeves and clean up food and grease immediately.
The Hinesville Fire Department offers classes and station tours often. This month, members also have been busy working in schools to teach students about fire safety. Younger children are taught the importance of the stop, drop and roll technique, Hart said.
“We teach the older children not to play with matches and lighters,” he said. “They are tools, not toys, we explain to them.”
Despite the NFPA’s statistics on home fires per year, the fire department rarely responds to structural fires in Hinesville.
“When we are called for a fire, it is usually in the kitchen, but that doesn’t happen too often,” Hart said. “We are hoping it is because of all our public-safety education.”
The fire department encourages families to purchase stovetop fire stops or similar products to prevent a cooking fire from spreading. A few weeks ago, the fire department responded to a fire at Baytree Apartments in Hinesville. The incident resulted in minimal damage because each apartment contains a stovetop fire stop, Hart said.
“Baytree suffered a lot less damage just because they had the stovetop fire stop in the apartments,” he said. “That’s how beneficial they are to homes.”
A stovetop fire stop comes in a canister and is positioned above the stove in case of a fire. It releases a chemical agent that puts the fire out right when it starts, Hart said. Fire extinguishers also are important to have in the home.
“I tell families to keep fire extinguishers in the home and to makes sure smoke detectors are active,” Hinesville’s Quautico Brown Insurance Agency owner Tico Brown said. “They are invaluable to families.”
Brown said fires are the leading cause for damages in the home. Mortgage companies require homeowners to purchase fire insurance because they have to make sure their investments are protected. Families also should purchase a fire extinguisher and keep it accessible in the home, he said.
“Fire extinguishers and smoke detectors are great ways to contain a fire,” Brown said. “Your home is your most valuable asset, and it does pay to protect it.”
More fire prevention information can be found at the fire department’s website, www.cityofhinesville.org/fire.