Fire safety? Kid’s need to learn about that, but not us adults, Right? After all, we know not to play with matches.
Well, not so, says Kevin Catalano, a department spokesman and Monroe Volunteer firefighter. He said outreach to residents of all ages is important, even if educating adults about fire safety is more about reminding people to use common sense.
The Monroe Volunteer Fire Department kicked off National Fire Prevention Week in Monroe with an open house Sunday.
The department has been visiting schools, but they’re also hoping to reach out to adults.
The theme of this year’s Fire Prevention Week is avoiding kitchen fires — a theme that would apply more to adults than children.
Department spokesman and firefighter Kevin Catalano acknowledged that sometimes its easier to reach children.
“They’re more advanced than the parents sometimes,” he said.
“On average every year there’s two, three, four families in Monroe that lose their homes to fire,” Catalano said.
At least anecdotally it appears the majority of fire calls have preventable causes, Catalano said.
Cigarettes were ruled to be the cause for a Downs Road fire that destroyed a home in August.
“We probably go to two kitchen fires on average once a month I’d say, where we get there, somebody called in, it was an active fire when they called it in,” Catalano said. Even more common are smoke detectors activated by burning food.
Catalano said another Monroe had been severely damaged but not entirely destroyed when a resident left a laundry basket near a stove, bumping a knob and turning it on, before leaving for work.
“It really gutted almost the first floor of the house.”
Similarly, one cause of kitchen fires is tossing a stack of papers or mail on the stove — being a flat surface.
Another cause might seem counterintuitive: Cleaning the oven.
Catalano said calls have come in quite consistently for as long as he can remember after the holidays.
“The day after Thanksgiving or the day after Christmas, after cooking a greasy turkey, people decide to use the self-cleaning function,” he said.
Catalano said people often don’t realize that with heavy grease from something like that or a year’s worth of cooking, that has to be cleaned out first before using the oven’s automatic cleaning function.
“That itself is enough to just ignite,” Catalano said. “We almost always get one of those calls.”
Catalano said education is an important part of the department’s work.
“A big part of our responsibility is to try to keep people safe,” he said. That means preventing emergencies, not just responding to them.
Firefighters have been visiting the schools in Monroe, including Saint Jude’s and the public schools to talk about fire prevention.
In addition to avoiding unsafe moves, Catalano said families should think about what to do if a fire does start. Below are a number of tips for fire prevention the fire department has been posting on its Facebook page:
• Never leave cooking on the stove top unattended
• Don’t place combustible items on the stove top (mail or groceries)
• Never smoke in bed or while laying in a chair — better yet, if you smoke, do so outdoors and dispose of butts carefully
• Don’t overload electrical outlets and power strips
• Don’t use extension cords on a permanent basis or to power heavy appliances and items
• Don’t leave candles burning where children or pets can knock them over
• Have your furnace and chimney regularly inspected and professionally cleaned
• Clean out your clothes dryer vent and vent tube regularly
• Dispose of fireplace ashes in a metal container, soak them, and leave outdoors
• Don’t store combustibles too close to the furnace or hot water heater
• Reduce clutter, especially in hallways and staircases
• Place smoke alarms on each floor of the home and in each bedroom
• Change the batteries in your smoke alarms at the same time you change your clocks
• Have an agreed-upon family meeting place in the event of a fire (your mailbox or light post)