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Fire departments urge use of smoke detectors

ABHUTCHISON, Sierra Sun

Smoke detectors are the No. 1 concern for fire prevention in homes, according to Truckee Fire’s prevention officer Chuck Thomas.

“Fire action here is fairly slow,” he said. “But nationwide, the majority of those who die in a fire are in a fire in their homes. In these fires, the smoke detectors have been disabled or have a dead battery.”

Those that are at the greatest risk of being injured in a house fire are the extremely young and the extremely old, Thomas said. He said that if a person has someone who needs assistance getting out of the house, they need to take extra precautions.

According to national statistics, 87 percent of fire deaths were either in homes without smoke detectors or with non-functioning detectors. And of the 13 percent of fire deaths that occurred in homes with functioning smoke detectors, the majority of deaths were preschool-age or non-ambulatory.

Truckee Fire Protection District still has smoke detectors available for free for those that don’t have one or need one replaced. Or, if you are having trouble replacing your battery, you can call the fire department and fire personnel will come to your home to replace it for you.

“It truly is that important,” Thomas said.

Fire officials note that when residents turn back their clocks in the fall for Daylight Saving Time, they also should inspect smoke detectors and replace batteries if necessary.

People in the Truckee area also need to prepare for the winter season by being aware of winter fire hazards.

Now that cooler weather is settling in and people are beginning to think about stoking up their chimneys and stoves, it is important that they remember to make sure they are cleaned out before use, Thomas said. Chimney fires are more common in the fall, he said.

“It’s cold, and people haven’t used their chimneys for a while,” he said. The dry, leftover residue can be dangerous if not cleaned properly.

Disposing of ashes correctly is another major prevention message Thomas hopes to get across.

If disposed of incorrectly, ashes can cause large, damaging fires. Ashes need to be emptied in a metal container with a tight fitting lid and stored somewhere safe where the container will not tip over, Thomas said. They should sit for a week to cool and then be disposed with the garbage. Ashes should never be dumped in the forest, he said.

Because the Sierra gets such high snowfall, and people get snow build-up around their homes, they tend to clear and take care of a single exit. Thomas said that two exits are very important for fire safety in the home.

“Everybody hates doing snow removal,” he said. “But if you lose one exit in a fire, you need to have a second exit.”

Although fire season will be coming to an end in a couple of months, it is not too late for people to be thinking about defensible space.

“The smoke in the area has created a heightened awareness of the vulnerability that we’re at risk,” Thomas said.

Surviving fire

If a fire should occur in your home, smoke detectors are the first defense and an escape plan is the second, Thomas said. An escape plan should be practiced at least yearly to familiarize ways out of the house and to organize a family meeting place.

Tips for surviving fire include:

– If people are in a house fire, they should crawl or stay near the ground to find a safe way out . There are less smoke and fumes in the air closest to the floor.

– Test door knobs for heat. If they are hot do not open them.

– Get out of the home and stay out. More people die attempting to go back into a home to retrieve something.

– If clothes catch fire, stop, drop to the ground and roll over and over to put out the flames.

– Call 9-1-1 from a neighbor’s house.

For information about fire detectors, call Thomas at 582-7853.


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