By Firefighter Tony Lauzon, MFD
The No. 1 and 2 causes for residential fires in the state of Vermont are from the heating system and from cooking; this equates to 720 or 67 percent of the total structure fires. Unfortunately, six Vermonters lost their lives this past year due to fires.
To help reduce these casualties, there are some fundamental actions we can take.
Install smoke detectors in the kitchen, on each floor and by each bedroom. Test them yearly. A good rule of thumb is when you change your clocks for daylight-saving time. Smoke detectors have an effective operational span of 10-years before they need replacement.
Have an escape plan with two ways out and a meeting place. Practice exiting the house at different times of the day.
As for kitchen safety, have some basic equipment on hand in case of a fire, including an ABC fire extinguisher and a good pair of oven mitts by the stove.
Basic kitchen safety
• Don’t leave your cooking unattended.
• Keep cooking area clean to prevent grease buildup.
• Remove flammable items away from the stove, i.e. curtains, potholders, dishtowels.
• Roll up your sleeves, tuck in your shirt and pin back long hair.
• Heat cooking oil slowly.
When cooking with cooking with/near younger children:
• Create a “kid-free zone” near the stove – at least 3 feet away.
• Use the back burners.
• Turn pot handles toward the center of the range.
• Teach children that hot things can burn.
• Never hold a child while cooking.
In case of a fire
• Grease fires – Do NOT use water; it will splash and spread the flames. Put a lid on it, or pour baking soda to smother the fire; otherwise, use a fire extinguisher.
• Keep the oven or microwave door shut if fire starts inside. Turn off the heat. If the flames do not go out immediately, get out, and call for help.
• Stop, drop and roll. If your clothes catch fire, smother them on the kitchen floor before getting out of the house.
Lastly, as the seasons change, we look to our heating systems to perform effectively, efficiently and safely.
• Look for cracked, rusted, misaligned or clogged vents.
• Check your flue assembly for alignment and rigidity.
• Make sure the flame is blue – a yellow flame may be a sign that the burner is out of adjustment.
• Clean or replace your furnace filter, and make sure the blower door is properly secured.
• Do not store or use combustible materials or liquids near any gas appliance or within 6 inches of the vent pipe.
• Check ducts for leaks, and have them properly insulated.
• Keep the area around your furnace clean and unobstructed.
• Do not close off more than 20 percent of the registers in your house. This can cause high resistance and unnecessary heat build-up.
If you burn wood, there are other considerations:
• Get your fireplace, wood stove and chimney cleaned and inspected annually for creosote build-up and cracks in mortar or chimney flues.
• Use seasoned wood to reduce creosote build-up.
• Allow ashes to cool before disposing in a metal container outside, away from any structure.
• Use paper and kindling wood to ignite a fire.
• Only a competent adult should start and supervise a fireplace or woodstove.
• Do not exceed the fuel capacity of your fireplace or wood stove.
• Make sure that your roof is clear of leaves, pine needles and other debris.
Did you know …
71 percent of the nearly 49,000 nationwide fire stations are volunteer?
In Vermont, we have 231 departments, 96 percent of which are volunteer or mostly volunteer. One percent are career.
The town of Milton has a paid, on-call fire department made up of 40 firefighters and 10 cadets (ages 14-17). We just celebrated our 75th anniversary in 2012 and look forward to supporting the needs of the community for years to come.
We provide fire prevention presentations yearly at the Milton Elementary School for all grades and biennially hold a Mock DUI at the high school for upperclassmen. We also have an open house the Saturday at the end of Fire Prevention Week; this year, it is this Saturday, Oct. 12 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the fire station on Bombardier Drive.