The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

December 17, 2012

‘Tis the season for fires

By Samantha Pidde
Herald Staff Writer

CLINTON — The Clinton Fire Department wants people to know that this is the season for more fire calls.

Fire Chief Mike Brown and Battalion Chief Jeff Chapman said this year has actually seen a low number of fires. They said they are still busy with EMS calls, but have had very few fires. Chapman reported that there have only been 12 structure fires this year. However, eight of the 12 fires have happened since Sept. 1.

Brown credits this low number to a stronger emphasis on prevention, as well as the department’s continuing smoke detector program. People can still call the station if they need smoke detectors.

“Winter generates a lot more fires,” Brown said.

Brown and Chapman emphasized some key risk factors and behaviors that increase the chance of fire. One of the main ones is associated with holiday decorating. Brown said that candles can be a great decoration if used properly. However, it is a huge problem in the country.

“You’ve got a flame burning, an open flame,” Brown said. He warns people to make sure their candles are not left unattended, are in appropriate containers and are placed away from combustible materials.

Chapman said one of the more dangerous parts of the holiday season is decorations and lighting. Fresh-cut trees should be properly watered. Chapman also warned people not to put too many lights up this year. He recommended that people do not put up more than a total of three strands of lights. Brown and Chapman also warned people not to overload extension cords and to use extension cords that can handle the amount of current being used.

“If the cord’s hot, you shouldn’t be using it,” Brown said.

Chapman recommended that people use power strips. That way, if there is a problem, it will affect the strip and not the outlet. He also cautioned people not to leave lights unattended.

“If you’re not there, you’re going to bed, shut them off,” Chapman said.

Another item that Brown discourages the use of is portable space heaters. He said they are often put too close to combustibles, such as blankets, and can be pretty dangerous. If a person is going to use one, it should be at least three feet from any combustibles. Brown said they should not be left unattended or where children can mess with them.

Another concern during the winter is carbon monoxide. Alliant Energy recently issued a press release on the threat of carbon monoxide. In it, it states that Alliant Energy responded to two carbon monoxide incidents in Iowa on Monday night, both involving a malfunctioning furnace. Brown encouraged people to have a professional check their furnaces this time of year.

“Because the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning mimic those of the flu, victims often don’t realize the cause of their illness,” Richard Sublett, senior manager compliance and operational performance, said in a press release. “Headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, disorientation, fatigue, muscle weakness, and difficulty waking are all early indicators of possible carbon monoxide poisoning.”

If a person suspects CO poisoning they need to get fresh air immediately and call for help before helping others. Chapman said that carbon monoxide detectors are important.

“It’s an odorless, tasteless gas that can potentially take your life very quickly,” Chapman said.