Be fire safe this winter

Jan 05, 2017

Our thoughts go out to two locals who were injured in fires this past week and we wish them both a speedy recovery.

Rockland firefighter Carl Anderson fell ill while running hose at a house fire on New Year's Day on Old County Road in Rockland. He was taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland to be evaluated for smoke inhalation because of the possibility that he inhaled unknown toxic fumes while fighting the fire. He was expected to be released Jan. 3.

On Jan. 3, a Rockport homeowner was critically injured when a fire destroyed his mobile home on Vinal Street at about 3:30 a.m. When firefighters arrived, the homeowner, Bruce Fales, was found outside his burning home in the driveway. Fales was also taken to a Portland hospital for smoke inhalation.

While the exact cause of either of these fires is not yet known, since state Fire Marshal's Office investigators continue to explore the causes of both, nationwide, cooking, heating and electrical malfunctions are the most common causes of residential fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. In fact, 32 percent of all residential fires that resulted in injury in 2014 were caused by cooking errors, while a total of 14 percent of injuries were caused by heating and electrical issues.

Cooking brings family and friends together, provides an outlet for creativity and can be relaxing. But cooking fires are the number-one cause of home fires and home injuries and many are the result of leaving cooking vessels unattended on the stove or in the oven.

By following a few of these safety tips, courtesy of the National Fire Protection Association, you can prevent these fires: Stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove. If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, do not use the stove or stovetop. If you are simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking. Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains -- away from your stovetop.

If you have a small (grease) cooking fire and decide to fight the fire, smother the flames by sliding a lid over the pan and turning off the burner. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled. For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. If you have any doubt about fighting the fire, get out and call 911 for help.

Half of home heating fires are reported in December, January and February. Be warm and safe this winter. Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, woodstove, or portable space heater. Have a 3-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters. Never use your oven to heat your home. Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.

Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional. Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed. Always use the right kind of fuel, as specified by the manufacturer, for fuel-burning space heaters. Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home. Test smoke alarms at least once a month.

Electrical fires are the third leading cause of residential fires nationwide. To help deter these kinds of fires, take note of the following tips: Have all electrical work done by a qualified electrician. When you are buying or remodeling a home, have it inspected by a qualified inspector. Only use one heat-producing appliance (such as a coffee maker, toaster, space heater, etc.) plugged into a receptacle outlet at a time. Major appliances (refrigerators, dryers, washers, stoves, air conditioners, etc.) should be plugged directly into a wall receptacle outlet. Extension cords and plug strips should not be used.

Arc fault circuit interrupters shut off electricity when a dangerous condition occurs. Consider having them installed in your home by a qualified electrician. Use ground fault circuit interrupters to reduce the risk of shock. GFCIs shut off an electrical circuit when it becomes a shock hazard. They should be installed inside the home in bathrooms, kitchens, garages and basements. All outdoor receptacles should be GFCI-protected. Test AFCIs and GFCIs once a month to make sure they are working properly. Check electrical cords to make sure they are not running across doorways or under carpets. Extension cords are intended for temporary use. Use lightbulbs that match the recommended wattage on the lamp or fixture. There should be a sticker that indicates the maximum wattage lightbulb to use.

For even more fire safety information and statistics, log onto nfpa.org.

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