By Tom Kiurski
In my many years in the emergency services, I have been called numerous times to help people in need. In many cases, the situation may have been difficult to prevent. In some other cases, I am sure I left scratching my head, asking myself "what were they thinking?" Like the recent fire in California, where a 36-year-old-man was burned over 60 percent of his body when he attempted to light the fire in the fireplace with logs that he soaked with gasoline.
This is a true story. At 36 years old, he is certainly beyond the point where he should have known better. Has he done that before, with better results? Was this the first time? How did this sound like a good idea in his mind?
How about the babysitter who turned on the space heater and then placed a blanket on the space heater to "warm it up?" While the intent was to pick it up soon after it was "warmed up," a cell phone call took her outside, so her voice would not wake the children. I don't have to tell you that the blanket started a family room fire before the babysitter got back in the home.
There was a fire caused by a hair dryer being used to warm up a bed. Yes, you read that right. The kids were complaining about how cold the house was, and the parents told the kids to take a hair dryer and put it between the sheets prior to getting into bed for the night. One night, they got sidetracked, and that is when the bedroom fire started.
I have responded to a fire in an oven involving plastic storage containers. One person thought a good storage place for clean food storage containers would be the oven, and another person in the home thought they would turn the oven on to prepare food. Guess what happened next?
I truly believe that many home fires are preventable. It is with a trained eye toward safety that can keep the families in your community from suffering the fate of an unwanted house fire. Even small fires and the resultant smoke and heat damage may displace a family for months from their home.
Consider the many ways you can pass on the messages of fire and life safety to those in your community. Use the above anecdotes to open a talk with groups in your community. Meet with a newspaper editor and discuss some of the safety tips that can keep your residents safer.
Educate those in your community about home fire safety, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms and escape plans. Encourage them to practice fire safety behaviors like "stop, drop and roll" and "crawl low under smoke." Meet with those at your local television/cable stations to come up with short PSAs (public service announcements) to educate your citizens. In difficult financial times, we have to get creative in getting our messages out!