As temps drop, fire calls go up

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, November 15, 2000

As the winter weather sets in, people’s daily activities change,often leading to dangerous situations if the proper precautions arenot taken, according to local fire prevention officials.

“This time of year we tend to see an increase in our runs,” saidBrookhaven Fire Department Chief Paul Cartwright. “Any time youhave people confined in their homes, you have more activity.”

Improper maintenance and use of heating units is the number onereason for a rise in calls when cold weather arrives, saidCartwright.

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“People turn on their heating units without having them checkedout first, and the lint and dust start burning off causing an odorand some smoke,” he said, mentioning on how proper maintenance toclear vents and reduce lint-dust buildup is needed.

Local residents should also do regular maintenance on chimneysand other wood burning units.

“They need to call a professional to clean their chimney everyyear,” said Captain Randy Sykes with the Brookhaven FireDepartment.

Also, before using any type of heating unit, residents shouldexamine surrounding areas, because objects around heating units areoften rearranged during the year.

“People don’t think about all the stuff they’ve moved during thewarmer seasons,” said Cartwright. “A lot of people are bad aboutstoring things around their heating units and putting things on topof the heating units, then they don’t think about it when they turnit on.”

Firefighters have seen a variety of objects cause fires becauseof the close proximity to heating units.

“People need to keep at least three feet of clearance aroundheaters,” said Brookhaven Firefighter Jeff Ainsworth. Some peopleimproperly use heaters to dry clothing, such as shoes during thewinter months, he noted.

Winter holidays, marked with family gatherings, result in anincrease of fires in the kitchen area as well, said officials.

“With the holidays, people do more cooking, and they get busyand leave things on the stove,” said Cartwright, adding that extracaution should be used in the kitchen.

He suggests residents have a fire extinguisher close by for anyemergency. Cartwright and other fire officials believe a home orbusiness is not be complete with out at least one fire extinguisherthat is easily accessible.

The use of carbon monoxide detectors and fire alarms is alsorecommended for residential and commercial buildings.

“It’s something that will stay on guard 24 hours a day, and it’san inexpensive way to save lives,” said Cartwright.

Residents should not rely completely on smoke detectors, though,because malfunctions can occur, he said. Most are the result ofhuman error, such as not changing batteries. Cartwright suggestbatteries be changed during time change in the fall and spring.

Holidays bring more cooking to homes as well as a rise in theamount of electricity being used for decorative purposes.

Christmas decorations may bring cheer to the holidays, but theycan also be the bearer of danger and tragedy, said fireofficials.

“People run extension cords under rugs to their Christmaslights, and they can short out and catch things on fire,” saidLieutenant James Dykes with the Brookhaven Fire Department.

Residents should check decorative lights yearly for cuts orbreaks, which can cause lights to spark and short out. They shouldalso make sure to use an extension cord that can handle the powernecessary for lights.

Lights should not be left on when a house or business is vacant,said firefighters. Residents should also keep Christmas treeswell-watered to prevent fire caused by heat from decorativelights.

Fire officials hope all residents will use common sense, solives and property will be spared during the winter months.

“We just want everybody to have happy and safe holidays,” saidCartwright.

In the case of a fire, residents should immediately call 9-1-1for help. They should also exit the area as quickly as possible bycrawling low, below smoke. If clothing or skin, catches on fire,officials say residents should drop and roll until fire isextinguished.