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County fire depts. go door-to-door to rate houses

MONTICELLO — Lawrence County residences may be labeled as”firefighter friendly” or “firefighter unfriendly” in some countyfire districts following a tentative assessment plan conducted bycounty fire departments in coming months.

Still in the early planning stages, most of the plan’s detailsare still being determined, but work is expected to begin on theassessments within the next few months.

Royce Renfroe, chief of the Topeka Volunteer Fire Department,and Dickie Mahaffery, chief of the Sontag Volunteer FireDepartment, are already committed to the assessment.

“It will take some time to implement,” Renfroe said. “We’ll godoor-to-door and assess each house for factors that would hinder usfrom fighting a fire there.”

The assessment would include concerns such as easy and secondaryaccess, room for the truck to turn around, defensible space aroundthe home, easy to find driveways, well defined house numbers forquick location, and other factors.

The assessment has two goals, according to the chiefs. Mostimportantly, the fire departments intend to use the assessment toexplain to homeowners the potential dangers at their homes andsteps that can be taken to eliminate them; and, secondly, toidentify homes that firefighters should approach with caution inthe event of a fire.

Under the tentative plan, firefighters will mark a potentiallydangerous residence. The type of marker to be used has not beendiscussed yet, the chiefs said, but early indications lean toward ared sticker on the mailbox.

The chiefs admit there may be some residents in the communitywho will get upset if they are identified as a potentiallydangerous residence. They believe those concerns could be easedonce they explain how the residence could be improved and thedangers firefighters would face in fighting a fire at the home.

“We’re a pretty close community, so I don’t think it will be aproblem,” Mahaffery said.

A red sticker, or other mark, does not mean firefighters wouldnot do their job at the location, both chiefs stressed. The markonly means firefighters should approach with caution.

For information on how to make a home more defensible againstfire or a checklist of items firefighters will consider during theassessment, visit the “Firewise” Web site at www.firewise.org.