Fire prevention heats up

John Rohlf/Clinton HeraldCamanche Fire Chief Dave Schutte leads a fire safety class at Camanche Elementary School on Wednesday morning.

CLINTON — The winter months usher in colder weather, leading to more precautions that need to be taken to avoid fires.

A report from the National Fire Protection Association states that house fires cause 2,510 civilian fire deaths — 93 percent of all civilian structure fire deaths.

The report found in a time frame from 2011-2015, cooking equipment was the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries and the second leading cause of home fire deaths.

The report names smoking as the leading cause of civilian home fire deaths. Heating equipment was determined to be the second most common cause of home fires and home injuries and the third leading cause of fire deaths.

“With the cold weather you have different heat sources that are being used that aren’t used throughout the rest of the year when it’s warm,” Camanche Fire Chief Dave Schutte said. “People with furnaces, we want to make sure they get that regularly maintained and checked. Fireplaces that aren’t used until wintertime. Make sure the chimneys are clear and things like that. Space heaters, provide at least three foot of space around them. But just the fact that we use different heat sources during the winter creates more hazards and more opportunity for fires if they’re not used properly.”

Schutte said one issue he believes is less noticed is carbon monoxide. Schutte said the Camanche Fire Department already had one incident in which they almost lost a young family. Schutte recommends people do preventative maintenance on heat sources and make sure they have a carbon monoxide detector.

“As you have more fuel-fired appliances running during the winter time, you have more opportunity for that carbon monoxide,” Schutte said. “So it’s vital that we have folks with carbon monoxide detectors. And according to state law that’s a requirement anyway. They’re mandated in all residences.”

Clinton Fire Chief Mike Brown said when using electric heaters it is important to be careful with combustibles, recommending all combustibles be kept at least three feet away. He added if individuals have a portable heater, do not use a blanket next to the heater.

Brown also stressed the importance of smoke detectors. He recommended smoke detectors be checked once a month to ensure they are functioning. He also recommended batteries be changed once a year. He said if the smoke detector was installed by the fire department, they use a long life battery pack. He said the fire department does install smoke detectors as needed and encouraged anyone with questions about installing a smoke detector to contact the fire department.

Brown and Schutte both said in the case of a fire, the first step should be to get everyone out of the house.

“Get out and stay out and then call,” Schutte said. “That’s the first thing. We want people to get out. Don’t try to save your stuff or collect your items. Just get out so you’re safe. Make sure you and your family are out and then call 911 from some other location and never go back in.”

Brown said after everyone is out of the residence, the fire department should be contacted. He also stressed the importance of having fire exit plans.

The Clinton Fire Department can be reached at 242-0125. The Camanche Fire Department can be reached at 259-1112.