Stay fire smart

Monday, October 5, 2009

We haven't yet heard the suspected cause of two or three house fires over the weekend, but with the advent of colder weather comes the danger of fire from defective or misused heating equipment.

It's not too late during this week's National Fire Prevention Week to check out your home heater to make sure it's safe and ready to go for the winter.

At the same time, be careful using space heaters and avoid using extension cords.

There is good reason to be concerned.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association:

* In 2006, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 64,100 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated losses of 540 civilian deaths, 1,400 civilian injuries, and $943 million in direct property damage.

* In 2006 heating equipment fires accounted for 16 percent of all reported home fires (second behind cooking) and 21 percent of home fire deaths.

* Space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for one-third (30 percent) of the home heating fires and three-fourths (73 percent) of home heating fire deaths in 2006.

* In 2003-06, the leading factor contributing to home heating fires (28 percent) and deaths (46 percent) was heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding. These statistics exclude fires that were confined to a chimney, flue, fuel burner or boiler.

Firefighters will be conducting public information exercises this week, and with good cause. They're the ones on the front lines, and, tragically, some of their number were the ones honored Sunday during the observance of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service.

The NFPA, along with local fire departments and other safety advocates nationwide are urging people to Stay Fire Smart! Don't Get Burned.

Fire departments responded to an estimated 1.5 million fires in 2008. These fires resulted in 3,320 civilian fire fatalities, 16,705 civilian fire injuries and an estimated $15.5 billion in direct property loss.

"Every 22 seconds a fire department responds to a fire somewhere in the United States," said Lorraine Carli, NFPA's vice president of communications. "Fires kill roughly 3,000 people each year and injure thousands. These statistics are especially tragic because most fires can be prevented and the deaths and injuries associated with them can be avoided. Fire Prevention Week is dedicated to focusing on important safety information that will help you stay safe from fire year round."

This year's campaign, Stay Fire Smart! Don't Get Burned focuses on ways to prevent fires, and the deaths, injuries, and property loss they cause. Eighty-four percent of all fire deaths were caused by home fires. By providing valuable information on fire and burn prevention and safety tips, the campaign aims to help the public keep their homes and the people who live there safe from fire and burns.

More information will be available in a special page Tuesday in the Gazette in recognition of National Fire Prevention Week. Take extra precautions to stay safe from fire this week, and every week year round.

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