BY JAVIER ORTIZ
The second week of October is Fire Prevention Week. It was declared by President Woodrow Wilson to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The Great Chicago Fire burned 17,400 structures and killed approximately 250 people. The popular belief is that Mrs. O’leary’s cow kicked a lamp in her barn that started the first structure on fire that spread through the town.
This year’s theme for Fire Prevention Week, running from 8-14 of October, is “Every Second Counts.” People are encouraged to create an emergency escape plan at home and manage to have two ways out of the home.
Fire Prevention Week could not be complete without the mascot of the fire departments, Sparky the dog, who spreads his message to kids in schools about what to do in case of fire. The story of Sparky the fire dog is about a Dalmatian that warns firefighters about a fire. When the firefighters go to investigate, there is a house involved in flames. After the firefighters fight the blaze, Spark becomes the mascot of the fire department, becoming a heroic anti-fire dog who was named Sparky.
According to the (National Fire Protection Association) NFPA most house fires are reported to be between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. and 1 in 5 homes were reported to be on fire. People are encouraged to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in their homes. It’s estimated that 3 out of 5 home fire deaths happen from fires in homes with no smoke detectors or with non working smoke detectors. It’s important that the battery in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors be changed every six months or every time that we change the time in our clocks. Locally in the Imperial Valley, the Burn Institute gives away free smoke alarms to anyone that doesn’t have them in their home.
Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fire injuries, followed by heating equipment. Locally most fires at home have started in the kitchen or in buildings that are vacant. U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 166,100 home cooking-related fires between 2010-2014 resulting in 480 civilian deaths, 5,540 civilian injuries and $1.1 billion in direct damage.
Almost 2 out of 5 fires nationwide started in the kitchen. Unattended cooking was a factor in one-third of reported home cooking fires. One should never leave the house when cooking or leave the stove unattended for long periods of time. It’s advised that in case of a grease fire in the kitchen do not put water on the fire; but either cover up the pan with a lid or use a box of bicarbonate also known as baking soda, if it’s a small fire.
The most recent NFPA survey showed only one-third of Americans have both developed and practiced a home fire escape plan, and almost three quarters have an escape plan but they have never practiced it. One third of the respondents to the survey said that they would have at least six minutes before a fire in their home would become life threatening. However, the time available is often less. Only eight percent said their first thought on hearing a smoke alarm would be to get out.
On average, one has approximately two minutes to get out of the house when the smoke alarm goes off. Working smoke alarms cut the risk in half of dying in home fires. The Holtville Fire Department will be attending Finley School on October 12 to teach kids about fire safety in their homes.