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Fire safety starts with you


I’m a local firefighter, but I’m also the guy who lives down the street from you. I am a parent of two children, and perhaps I share with you the same dreams you have for your children.

I am faced with the many problems you have. I am also faced with the fire tragedies that continue to plaque our country. I have seen many fires, including fatal ones.

I would like to share with you some vital and basic fire safety education to avert the kind of tragedies I have encountered.

The scene is a week or so before Christmas. It is after 2 a.m., and somewhere in town there is a home with a family asleep. Cigarette ashes have fallen onto a couch. As the ashes continue to smoulder, the family inside the home is unaware of the danger.

Suddenly, smouldering turns to flames. Smoke fills the room, and continues throughout the rest of the home.

As time goes by, the bells at the fire station ring. My fire pager goes off . . . announcing a house is on fire. I awake to rush to the burning home.

As I arrive on scene, it seems to be a typical house fire, but something is different. The house is engulfed in flames. Smoke and fire pour from the second floor of the burning home.

The on-duty captain’s face tells it all. He instructs me to put on an air pack.

As I approach the side of the burning house, my mind focuses on loud screaming and crying, which is coming from a neighbour. “Oh my God—the kids are still up there!”

I enter the burning home with the nozzle man, and we knocked down the fire and put it out. What we come across is a disturbing scene. One parent escaped out a window. Sadly, the other parent and two children did not.

It was extremely upsetting and heart-breaking because the victims were children. So many years of potential life lost!

The vast majority of Canadians have smoke alarms. But many of these alarms are not in working order because the batteries are dead or have been removed.

Some provinces have estimated that 40 percent of smoke alarms in homes do not work!

Fact: working smoke alarms save lives! Properly-installed and maintained working smoke alarms are critical for early detection of fire. Take a few minutes each week to test your alarms by pushing the alarm test button.

However, this only tests the audible alarm, not the smoke sensors. You need to test your smoke alarms monthly using smoke from a smouldering cotton string, incense stick, or candle wick.

When returning home from a vacation, recheck the alarms—even if you’ve only been gone a week. The alarm’s low-battery warning only chirps for a short time before the battery is completely dead!

Install new batteries every six months when you change your clocks in the spring and fall, or when needed. If the low-battery warning beeps, replace the battery immediately. This action may be the smartest investment you ever make!

Dust can clog a smoke alarm. Use your vacuum cleaner to clean your alarms. Carefully vacuum the inside and outside of a battery-powered unit with a soft brush attachment.

If the alarm is electrically connected, shut off the power and vacuum the outside vents only. Make sure you test the unit when you restore the power.

You may only have seconds to escape a house fire. A fire can engulf a home or cottage in six minutes or less. But smoke—which is the real killer—can engulf your home or cottage in two minutes or less!

Developing and practising a well-rehearsed home escape plan with two ways out of each room is critical to your family’s survival. No one needs to die in a fire! Ultimately, your family’s safety is your responsibility.

If fire strikes and the blanket of smoke descends, you could be lost in your own home. The only light will be deadly . . . and coming your way!

Fire safety . . . it starts with you!

Tyler Moffitt is a part-time fire fighter and first aid instructor. He writes fire and life safety columns as a public service.

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