Between the daily business plan and the news, I have seen or read about a few fires in our region lately. We may already...

Between the daily business plan and the news, I have seen or read about a few fires in our region lately.

We may already be there, but I hope that we never get to the point where residential fires are just an accepted part of our day-to-day lives. Every fire should be talked about, and we should determine what caused it, how it could have been prevented and what we do to move forward. Many people, whether they are willing to admit it or not, believe that it will never happen to them. This kind of thinking may make you the next statistic. Let’s take a moment and talk about some of these most recent fires, with the hope that you can prevent this from happening at your address.

I read this morning about a bedroom fire that displaced five occupants. When we think about a bedroom, what is there to cause a fire? Every room of our homes has electricity. Whether it be wiring in the walls with outlets and switches, cords running across the floor, multi-plug adapters or the many things that plug into those outlets, any of these things can lead to a fire if something malfunctions.

Space heaters should be three feet from all combustibles.

Another heat source is candles. An apartment fire in Henrico was caused by unattended candles. The motto concerning candles is: “When you go out, blow them out!”

Smoking material is another heat source in a bedroom. People who smoke in bed can fall asleep while smoking in bed.

Another cause of bedroom fires is children playing with matches or lighters. Building codes require smoke alarms inside each bedroom and just outside each bedroom. Older homes do not have this level of protection, unless homeowners choose to protect their family in this way.

Last night, I was listening to an incident that involved an apartment building with smoke throughout the building. As with any apartment incident, it is usually never confined to one apartment. I listened as crews evacuated the entire building. The source of the problem ended up being a furnace unit in one of the apartments. The incident was quickly mitigated once the source was found, and everyone was allowed to return to their apartments. The problem arises when fire and smoke extends beyond the original apartment. You may be the safest person in the world, but what about your neighbors in adjoining apartments?

Cooking-related fires are still the leading cause of residential fires in our country. Every day, fire units will respond when food is left on the stove or cooking related incidents that extend beyond the pot, pan or oven. Many newly constructed apartments are outfitted with sprinkler systems, which are there to extinguish a fire, or at least keep it in check until occupants can escape. Sprinkler systems and smoke alarms do nothing to prevent a fire from occurring.

There must be an intentional effort to prevent a fire. Knowing what can cause fires is a start. If we see a potential fire happening, then we must fix the problem. The most important thing that we can say is: “It can happen to me.” Accepting this will possibly spur us to prevent fires at all costs. In the meantime, put the proactive measures in place: smoke alarms, alarm systems and sprinkler systems.

Firefighters have dedicated their lives to fighting fires in every way possible, whether by prevention, by education, or by pulling up on a fire showing from three windows and going in, while others are running out.

What will you do to be part of the solution and not part of the problem?