Cambrian: Opinion

Home fires can and do kill — here’s what you can do to prevent them

Editor’s note: This marks the debut of a quarterly column by Cambria Fire Department Chief Mark Miller sharing information to help keep Cambrians safe.

Each year approximately 1,100 Americans ages 65 and older die in home fires and another 3,000 are injured.

People ages 65 and older are three times as likely to die in a residential fire as the rest of the population.

Compared to their younger counterparts, older adults are more likely to suffer from reduced sensory abilities and physical abilities.

These reductions may slow reaction times and place older adults at higher risk for causing and escaping a fire. The information in this article can help keep you on your feet and safe from fire.

Careless smoking, cooking and heating practices are the top three causes of fire death and injury. We will focus our fire-safety and prevention message in an effort to eliminate these three categories and discuss strategies for escaping a fire.

CARELESS SMOKING is the leading cause of fire deaths among people ages 65 and older. If you don’t smoke, great! However, if you choose to smoke, it would be a good idea to follow these “Remembering When” tips from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):

If you smoke—Always consider the potential created to ignite a wildland or house fire.

Provide smokers with large, deep ashtrays.

Wet cigarette butts and ashtrays before emptying into a wastebasket.

Never walk away from a lit cigarette.

If alcohol or medication makes you drowsy or you’re just plain tired, put your cigarette out right away.

Never smoke when you’re lying down or in bed.

CARELESS COOKING: Be kitchen wise. Always wear short, tight-fitting or rolled up sleeves when you cook. Keep towels, pot holders and curtains away from flames and hot burners and never store combustible items on the stovetop. Never leave cooking unattended. A serious fire can start in seconds. If a pan of food catches fire, follow these two simple steps:

1. Slide a lid over the fire.

2. Turn off the burner.

This may require some preparation. Make sure that you have a lid in your kitchen that will fit over any pan or pot you would put on a stove top. Keep it handy, but not over or around the stove — that is where the fire will be.

If a fire breaks out in your oven, do not open the oven door. Do turn it off immediately. Both of these fire situations should be treated as emergencies and you should call 911 and exit the building. Always make a habit of checking your kitchen before going to bed or leaving home.

HEATING PRACTICES: Give space heaters space. Keep them at least three feet away from anything that can burn – including yourself. Unplug heaters when you shut then off, leave home or go to bed. When you purchase a space heater, search for the type with an auto-off feature that turns off if tipped over. Never use your stove to heat your house.

ESCAPING A FIRE: Early detection is the key. People with lack of mobility issues may need more time to escape. Functioning smoke detectors are critical. Smoke detectors should be located in every bedroom and on all levels of the home. Interconnected detectors are best and are available in battery operated style. These types can awake and alert you to the presence of smoke before it is in your room! It is also important to have a functioning carbon monoxide detector located in the home.

If you have questions or need assistance with smoke detectors please, contact the Cambria Community Services District Fire Department at 927- 6240.