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Official offers safety tips for fire awareness month

Mississippi had the fifth-highest number of fire deaths in thecountry in 2006, but the key to fire safety around the home isbasically just common sense, Brookhaven Fire Chief Tony Weekssaid.

The United States Fire Administration’s most recent statisticsshow Mississippi behind only West Virginia, Washington D.C.,Tennessee and Kansas for fire-related deaths per capita. There were25.5 deaths per million residents in Mississippi in 2006, whichtranslates to roughly 76 deaths.

Meanwhile, October is Fire Safety Awareness Month, and firedepartment officials are taking time to further educate the publicon ways to be more conscious of the risks and fire hazards aroundyour own home.

Saving your own life, or that of your loved ones, can be as easyas 1-2-3, Weeks said. First is having a smoke alarm and second issimply checking on your smoke alarm battery twice a year.

“Smoke is what kills the most people in fatal house fires, and asmoke alarm gives you an early warning,” he said. “Just change thebattery out when you change your clocks for daylight savings time,and that should keep them fresh.”

Third, Weeks said, is having a fire escape plan.

“If your smoke alarm goes off, get out of the house,” he said.”Families should practice drills, and have a meeting place outsidethe house, whether it’s the mailbox or wherever.”

And with Brookhaven units responding to two kitchen fires in thelast week, Weeks said it’s important that people know the right wayto cope when things light up on the stove or in the oven.

“The best way to prevent a stove fire is don’t leave itunattended,” he said. “Even for just a minute.”

And the old, standard advice is the best on a stovetop greasefire: Don’t use water or flour, Weeks said. Baking soda is alwaysan option, though the best plan is to have a fire extinguisherhandy.

“Don’t pick the pot up and try to take it outside while it’sburning,” Weeks said. “Put a lid on it, or if something in the ovenis burning, leave the door shut and turn the power off. Just let itsmother itself.”

Meanwhile, practice general kitchen safety to prevent burnsituations, like turning pot handles in on the stove and notallowing small children in areas where things are cooking. Also,the kitchen is not a place for dangling sleeves or loose clothesthat might ignite if they come into contact with hot surfaces.

Finally, Weeks said, with winter on the way, the space heatersare coming out. People need to remember that just because they’reportable doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous.

“Keep the curtains away, and anything that will ignite,” hesaid. “Don’t dry your clothes on a heater, because that can cause afire.”

Weeks said at the beginning of the season, there are often smokescares when people turn their heaters because dust that has builtup burns off early. Regardless, Weeks said, if the smell doesn’tseem right, go ahead and call the fire department.

Other home tips for winter Weeks offered were to make sure tohave someone check the chimney for creosote buildup before buildinga fire in the fire place, and follow proper procedures for akerosene space heaters.

Weeks said more tips on home fire safety are available atwww.firesafety.gov.