Ill. firefighters teach lifesaving lessons during Fire Prevention Week
Firefighters are taking the week to teach lessons such as the value of keeping doors closed and smoke detectors up to date
By Kevin Barlow
NORMAL, Ill. — For Normal firefighter and paramedic Jordan Duran, Tuesday was a day to have a little fun at his job.
With it being Fire Prevention Week, Duran and other firefighters at Normal's Fire Station No. 3 at 1200 E. Raab Road spent part of the day leading children from the Little Jewels Learning Center in Normal on tours of the station, including the fire trucks and ambulances.
"We take fire prevention very seriously," Duran said, "and with kids, it's very important that they know what to do in case of a fire in their house or school. That's our priority: to make sure they are aware of the dangers of fire, why they shouldn't play with it, and how to get out safely in the event of a fire."
Another highlight of Fire Prevention Week will be Clinton's annual fire truck parade, featuring 25 to 30 trucks from across Central Illinois, beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the junior high school and finishing in the downtown square.
While open houses and fire truck parades are an important part of Fire Prevention Week, so are the lessons that can be taught such as the value of keeping doors closed and smoke detectors up to date, said Bloomington Fire Department spokesman Stuart Blade.
"We are now emphasizing closing doors in the case of a fire," he said. "We have always said, 'Get out, stay out,' but now, we are encouraging people to close the door, because that limits the oxygen.
"If going out in the hallway is not an option, just close the door and stay in the room. Even a hollow door can stop fire for five minutes and that can save a life."
The average response time for the Bloomington Fire Department to a call is about 4 minutes, 45 seconds, he said.
"So if someone calls us and there is an active fire, we should be able to get to them if their door is closed and they are in a room. It is very important to shut those doors," he said.
Fires today become dangerous more quickly than in the past, largely because of the increased use of synthetic materials that burn rapidly, he added.
"We have noticed that fires are doubling or tripling in size every minute," he said. "Studies have shown that in the 1970s, it took a room about 17 minutes to become fully engulfed from a trash can fire. Now, it's about 2 minutes and 40 seconds.
"Every second counts and this proves that."
During a fire, a closed door can make a 900-degree difference, said Normal Fire Department spokesman Matt Swaney.
"Research has shown that a fire can get up to 1,000 degrees, but if you have a closed door between the fire and you, the temperature in that room might only be 100 degrees," he said. "So that gives firefighters some extra time to get to you, or particularly smaller children."
Both agree smoke detectors are essential to fire safety.
An investigation into a fire on Aug. 6 on Hunt Drive in Normal revealed that the fire originated in the kitchen and likely was caused by open flame igniting combustible materials near the stove top. The fire then extended into the cabinets and eventually burned through the ceiling to the roof, but the smoke alarms were not working in the unit.
Diana McLaren-Osburne, 68, died in the fire.
"The tragic loss of life from a fire is something that every fire department fights so hard to prevent," said Normal Fire Chief Mick Humer. "We want everyone to do whatever they can to protect their family from the danger of fire in the home."
That was the first fatal fire in Normal since 1991.
Last month, a Bloomington woman, Pamela Ringenberg, awoke to smoke alarms and escaped her Brittany Court home despite smoke inhalation. Investigators believe her husband, Eric, killed their two sons before setting fire to the house and then killing himself.
In Lincoln, a woman died in a May 13 fire. Fire Chief Mark Miller said Sandra Hurst, 65, died as a result of discarded smoking materials.
In 2016, the Bloomington Fire Department handled 75 structure fire calls, 19 vehicle fire calls and 64 other fires with a total fire dollar loss of $3,037,535, according to the state fire marshal's office.
The Normal Fire Department last year responded to 26 structure fires, 13 vehicle fires and 42 other fires with a fire dollar loss of $877,110.
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