Firefighters try to spark safer thinking

Monroe firefighters visited Monroe Elementary School llast week in part of their effort to curb fires before they happen by educating children as well as adults about safety practices.

Monroe firefighters visited Monroe Elementary School llast week in part of their effort to curb fires before they happen by educating children as well as adults about safety practices.

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)

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  • Ted Stoica

    Kevin Catalano, I was just reading your 1/10/13 article on firefighters want fewer calls. Part of your article says there weren’t smoke alarms present at the high meadow rd home? Kevin,you must have been very late getting to the fire because two of them were going off for an hour, the heat detector in the basement only went off for 1/2 an hour,maybe you were busy typing?

  • Ted Stoica

    My comment is waiting moderation…still? Guess I have to try something else? Unfortunately not everyone’s opinion is moderated…or yours never would have been printed! I have lived in Monroe my whole life, so I don’t appreciate lies being put in the local paper about me so you can put your own twist on an already hard time for my family,from what I hear you like to do this…. Well,I don’t need the paper,thanks anyway

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