By STEVEN NALLEY
With the National Fire Protection Association’s annual Fire Prevention Week starting yesterday, city and county firefighting officials offered advice to avoid some of this season’s most common and preventable fires.
Rodger Mann, chief of the Starkville Fire Department, said Fire Prevention Week falls near Oct. 8 to commemorate the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. He said several factors also lead to a larger volume of calls to fire departments in the fall months leading into winter.
“Cooler weather brings on the use of heaters, electric blankets and such,” Mann said, “but more (of a risk factor) than any other is the use of fireplaces. Further, the fall also brings on the burning of leaves.”
Kirk Rosenhan, Oktibbeha County Fire Services coordinator, said college students buying or borrowing space heaters for chilly dormitories should plug them directly into wall outlets and not use extension cords with them.
“Buy or use one with a ‘tipover’ switch which shuts it off if it’s disturbed or turned over,” Rosenhan said. “Space heaters should not be placed near any combustibles, such as bedding, furniture, etc.”
Specifically, Mann said space heaters need to be at least 3 feet from combustibles. Users should also unplug space heaters when not in use and never leave children unattended near a heater.
Mann said families planning to take advantage of fall weather for camping should always use pits for campfires, and never leave them unattended. Tents should be set at least 10 feet away from campfires, Mann said, and they should never be used to burn paper products.
“Never have a campfire during windy conditions,” Mann said. “Have a shovel and water or sand handy to help in extinguishing a fire. Never use a flammable liquid to start your campfire.”
When cooking for Thanksgiving or Christmas, Rosenhan said, stoves, like campfires and space heaters, should not be left unattended.
“Have a lid available to cover any pot on the stove that could catch fire,” Rosenhan said. “Do not put water on any stove fire. Have a potholder and fire extinguisher available for use. Do not pick up a pan that is on fire to take it to a sink or to a door.”
The Starkville Fire Department’s website features a video of a Christmas tree fire engulfing a common living room in less than a minute. Mann said he recommends the use of artificial trees, but live trees should be kept watered, and lights should be checked for frayed wiring and replaced if frays are found.
Finally, Rosenhan said homeowners should make sure they have working smoke detectors. Both city and county fire departments will help furnish and install them. Mann said smoke detectors should be checked routinely to keep them working properly and fire escape plans should be practiced routinely.