In 2011 U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,389,500 fires, an increase of 4.4 percent from the previous year. They caused 3,005 civilian deaths, 17,500 civilian injuries and an estimated $11.7 billion in direct property loss.
Some of that property damage occurred in structure fires, some in home fires, some in vehicle fires and some in intentionally set fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Edmond Fire Maj. Kelly Lewis said there are many steps property owners can take to mitigate loss from fires. Lewis offered five things they can do to lower the chances of suffering financial loss due to a fire:
• Tip No. 1 — Cooking-related fires continue to be a leading cause of fires in the home. Lewis said pan fires, caused by overheated fats and cooking oils, often arise when cooks leave the kitchen for a period of time. Water cannot extinguish a grease fire. The best way to extinguish a pan fire is to turn off the heat and carefully clap a lid on it. A cover such as a cookie sheet will also suffice. Never leave cooking unattended, Lewis said. Also, turning pan handles inward, away from the edge of the stove top, can prevent a youngster from grabbing it and potentially being scalded.
• Tip No. 2 — Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths in 2005-2009 resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Lewis said the Edmond Fire Department recommends having at least one detector on every level of a structure and a minimum of one outside every bedroom. It’s best to have one inside every bedroom as well, Lewis said. Both ionization and photoelectric detectors are used. Lewis said the EFD recommends dual detectors. Check batters once a month, replace them once a year and replace detectors every 10 years. Fire extinguishers and chimneys should also be properly maintained.
• Tip No. 3 — In 2010, U.S. fire departments responded to 57,100 home structure fires that involved heating equipment, according to the NFPA, Lewis said space heaters need space; keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from each heater. Check electrical cords often and replace cracked or damaged electrical or extension cords. Avoid using lighted candles. If you must use candles, place them in sturdy candleholders that won’t burn.
• Tip No. 4 — Having a properly maintained fire extinguisher is another line of defense. The use of a fire extinguisher in the hands of a trained adult can be a life and property saving tool, Lewis said. A majority of adults have not had fire extinguisher training and may not know how and when to use them, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Fire extinguisher use requires a sound decision making process and training on their proper use and maintenance.
• Tip No. 5 — Each year wildfires damage or destroy many homes, and the fire danger season is underway in the Oklahoma City metro area. Much of Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska are experiencing the two highest levels of drought — extreme and exceptional, according to the U.S. Drought monitor’s map dated Jan. 1. Lewis said ways to reduce your homes’ risk from a wildfire include clearing leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home. Remove flammable materials within 3-5 feet of the home’s foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds. And limit vegetation surrounding the home’s perimeter, at least 30-100 feet, depending on the area’s wildfire risk.
The United States Fire Administration recommends everyone should have a comprehensive fire protection plan that includes smoke alarms, residential sprinklers, and practicing a home fire escape plan.
For more information on how to mitigate property loss from fires, visit the Edmond Fire Department’s section on the city’s website: edmondok.com. Other sources for information include the National Fire Protection Association: www.nfpa.org and Firewise: www.firewise.org.
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