Fire Coordinator offers fire prevention tips
OWEGO - Springtime can be one of the most dangerous fire seasons, according to Tioga County Fire Coordinator John Scott. Outdoor burning is always prohibited by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in towns with a population of more than 20,000, like Owego. A DEC outdoor burning ban is also in place everywhere in New York from March 16 through May 14 because of the increased risk of brush fires.
But that's not the only risk as outside temperatures warm.
"In this weather with warm days and cool nights, creosote can build up in chimneys and you have to be careful," Scott said. He said that when fires are dampened during the warm days and then the flue is opened to warm the house at night, creosote can accumulate inside chimneys and increase the risk of fire. "Clean and inspect your chimney regularly," Scott said.
Another potential trouble spot Scott recommends being aware of is overloaded electrical outlets and misuse of extension cords. Never run an extension cord under a rug, and extension cords should not be used to power appliances regularly. If it's going to be plugged in permanently, Scott recommends plugging directly into an outlet. If necessary, a new outlet should be installed by a qualified electrician.
Overloaded electrical outlets can be another hazard as consumers buy more and more electrical appliances, from televisions and video game systems to cell phone chargers. Even using a power strip does not alleviate the risk, according to Scott, who again recommended getting new outlets installed in remote or high use areas.
A simple precaution that everyone should make sure is in their home are smoke detectors, according to Scott. Make sure you have a fresh battery in each detector in your house, it's suggested that you change them when you change the time from daylight savings time to standard time and back each Fall and Spring. "Everyone should have smoke detectors in their home," Scott said, "they're proven life savers. It's such cheap insurance."
So, you have a smoke detector, but it goes off every time you make toast. What do you do? Scott suggests moving the smoke detector a little farther from areas where you cook, and making sure there are working detectors in each bedroom and the living room, at least, besides the kitchen.
Scott also said that grease fires should be covered if they have not spread beyond a cooking pot or frying pan. Never try to carry a utensil with burning grease in it as it can spill.
A fire extinguisher is a good precaution also. If you're not sure how to use an extinguisher, Scott suggests contacting your local fire department. Chances are they will be more than happy to instruct you in how to use a fire extinguisher. Even with an extinguisher, use your common sense. If you feel that a fire is beyond your capabilities with an extinguisher, or when a fire starts to spread, it's time to get out of your house. Either way, trained firefighters should be called to make sure it's safe whenever there is a fire.
Remember to err on the side of caution. When in doubt, get out. Material possessions can be replaced, but your life cannot, and if you try to stay inside or go back in for a pet or belongings, you may put someone else's life at risk when they try to rescue you.