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How much do you know about fire safety?

Thanks to Trent Harwig, chief of the Falcon Fire Protection District, for his assistance with this article. Chief Harwig supplied the information on the background behind fire prevention week, the Great Chicago Fire and the top-10 fire hazards.On Oct. 9, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire killed some 300 people, left 100,000 homeless and destroyed more than 17,000 structures. One popular legend as to how the fire started claims that Catherine O’Leary was milking her cow when the animal kicked over a lamp and set the O’Leary’s barn on fire – the beginning of the fiery conflagration. The city of Chicago was fast to rebuild.In honor of the 40th anniversary of the fire, the Fire Marshals Association of North America sponsored the first National Fire Prevention Day.In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first national Fire Prevention Day proclamation. By 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Week – that year it took place from Oct. 4 to Oct. 10.Noting that about 15,000 lives had been lost to fires during the previous year, President Coolidge, in his proclamation, said, “The serious losses in life and property resulting annually from fires cause me deep concern. I am sure that such unnecessary waste can be reduced. The substantial progress made in the science of fire prevention and fire protection in this country during the past 40 years convinces me that the means are available for limiting this unnecessary destruction.”National Fire Prevention Week falls during the same week that Oct. 9 falls each year. We asked three questions of area residents to see how much they knew about fire safety. The person who came closest to the actual percentage of fire-related calls handled by the FFPD won a free fire safety home inspection by the Falcon fire district. Krista Dupre offered the inspection to her friend, Lori Vaughn, also from Peyton.

Tracy Hitner,
What should you do in case of a grease or electrical fire?
Use a fire extinguisher? I know not to throw water on it.
What is the No. 1 cause of house fires?
Lack of attention (while cooking)
Of the total number of calls the Falcon Fire Protection District responds to each month, what percentage relates to fires?
68 percent

Rocky Monnin,
Colorado Springs
What should you do in case of a grease or electrical fire?
Smother it.
What is the No. 1 cause of house fires?
Of the total number of calls the Falcon Fire Protection District responds to each month, what percentage is related to a fire?
25 percent

Ben Garcia,
Colorado Springs
What should you do in case of a grease or electrical fire?
Smother it or put a lid on it (if it is a grease fire burning in a pan).
What is the No. 1 cause of house fires?
Stove or cooking-related fires.
Of the total number of calls the Falcon Fire Protection District responds to each month, what percentage is related to a fire?
11 percent

Krista Dupre,
What should you do in case of a grease or electrical fire?
I know now to put water on it. Fire extinguisher?
What is the No.1 cause of house fires?
Of the total number of calls the Falcon Fire Protection District responds to each month, what percentage is related to a fire?
10 percent

Top 10 Fire HazardsHazard No. 1: distractions in the kitchenCooking fires are the No. 1 cause of home fires in the U.S. People get distracted while cooking, stopping to talk with guests, answering the phone, you name it. But it only takes a minute for food to overheat, boil over and spread a fast-moving grease fire.
  • Never leave cooking food on the stovetop or inside the oven unattended.
  • Keep cooking areas free of potholders, rags, curtains, food packaging and other items that can fuel fire.
  • Create a three-foot kid-free zone around your stove-and keep pets away, too.
Hazard No. 2: electrical firesFrom the mid-1960s to mid-1970s, many homes across the U.S were built or repaired with aluminum wiring. Aluminum and copper expand and contract at different rates, which can cause loose connections. A fire may start when a loose connection causes a spark.
  • Have an electrician inspect and tighten any loose connections once a year-don’t do this yourself. Thanks to new infrared scanners used to detect heat-build up, this is an easy and often inexpensive home maintenance chore.
Hazard No. 3: fireplaces and chimneysOut of sight, out of mind is true for most homeowners with fireplaces and chimneys. But creosote and smoke coat the inside of the chimney, creating plenty of fuel for fires. All it takes is one spark to touch this heavy build-up to cause a fire.
  • Have a chimney sweep company clean your chimney every year.
  • Remember to open your flue for the first fire of the season.
  • Install a spark arrester-a mesh screen-on the top of your chimney to keep sparks from igniting your roof or debris outside your house.
Hazard No. 4: central heatingWhen the first cold weather of the season hits, fire departments brace for an increase in home fires-they know how many people put off routine home heating maintenance. They also know that heating systems are the leading causes of fires in December, January and February.
  • Have your heating system, whether it’s gas or oil, serviced once a year-well before the winter’s cold weather begins. Schedule the service by Labor Day and you’ll have it done in plenty of time.
Hazard No. 5: kerosene space heatersAlthough space heater safety has improved since the 1970s, these portable devices used to heat one room or save money on heating bills are still dangerous if you don’t know how to properly use them.
  • Always pour in the kerosene outside. Kerosene vapors are heavier than air, which means they could flow along the floor of your house and ignite when reaching an ignition source.
  • Keep all space heaters a minimum of 4 feet away from any combustibles-curtains, furniture, rugs, etc.
  • Always turn it off when you leave the house or go to bed.
Hazard No. 6: smokingSmoking materials are the leading cause of death in fire because many smokers fall asleep while smoking, and cigarettes, cigars, matches and lighters can ignite bedding or furniture. As in all fires, the toxic gases given off by the fire will cause death long before the flames.
  • Don’t allow smoking in your house. And if someone smokes outside your house, check for smoldering butts, especially during dry summer weather.
  • Check couch cushions for still-burning cigarette butts, particularly after a party.
  • Never smoke in bed, especially when drowsy, medicated or intoxicated.
Hazard No. 7: wildfiresMost people think that a wildfire can’t happen to them. A wildfire will happen wherever conditions are ripe -during dry, drought-plagued summers, for example. The difference is that people who live in the Western U.S. are used to them and know what prevention measures to take.
  • Remove dead or dying trees and shrubs.
  • Keep dry brush and debris at least 30 feet away from your house.
  • Keep your grass cut short.
  • Clear your roof, gutters and eaves of debris.
Hazard No. 8: childrenChildren are naturally curious. There have been numerous cases where children have saved their parents from fire. On the other hand, children have also been known to start fires accidentally. And when that happens, many kids get scared and won’t tell anyone.
  • Teach children never to play with matches. Begin talking about fire safety with children as young as age 3.
  • Tell children never to hide during a fire so firefighters can find and rescue them.
  • Plan and practice a family escape plan so every family member knows two ways out and a designated meeting place.
Hazard No. 9: candlesAs the popularity of candles rises, so does the number of candle fires.
  • Never leave candles unattended-extinguish them when you leave the room or go to bed.
  • Stop using candles once they have only an inch left-the remaining wax is likely to melt and allow the wick to fall outside the candle holder and ignite a fire.
  • Use sturdy candle holders that are unlikely to tip over.
Hazard No. 10: extension cordsChances are you can’t remember when you bought that extension cord you’re using. And did you know that extension cords must be rated for intended use? That means while the cord is fine for your electric fan, it might not work safely with your home computer.
  • If a cord is frayed or feels warm, throw it away.
  • If you’re using an extension cord for longer than two weeks, consider having an electrician re-do some wiring instead.
  • Never use an extension cord for heavy-duty appliances such as washers, dryers or dishwashers.
Falcon Fire Chief Trent Harwig said the district responds to about 1,800 calls in Falcon per year. Of those calls, 3 percent are actual fires. “Data would indicate much more than that because it considers smoke detectors, illegal burns etc. as fires as well,” Harwig said. “So, (there are) about 50 true working fires per year in Falcon. This includes inside as well as outside fires.”Harwig also said arson is still one of the leading causes of fires nationally. America has the highest number of lives and property lost to fires in the industrialized world, he said.The best line of defense against a fire is an automatic fire sprinkler system. Harwig said the system is “like having an entire fire department in your house 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He suggested reading the Scottsdale Arizona Report on sprinklers and “America Burning.””It’s sad that we (fires) still kill as many people, firefighters and civilians now as we did when President Truman made his statement nearly 60 years ago,” Harwig said.

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