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NEWS | Sept. 9, 2008

Only you can 'prevent home fires'

By Richard Pettyjohn 1st Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department

In 2007 there were more than 1.5 million fires reported in the United States. Of those, nearly 4 thousand were home structure fires, resulting in more than 2,800 civilian deaths, 13,600 civilian injuries and $7.4 billion in damages, according to 

In an effort to lower those statistics, a Fire Prevention Week campaign, "Prevent Home Fires," is scheduled for Oct. 5 to 11.

The 1st Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department and the National Fire Protection Association have also compiled a list of fire prevention guidelines for use in the home: 

Install smoke alarms throughout the home
. Smoke alarms should be installed in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home to include the basement. Test smoke alarms at least once a month, and replace the batteries once a year or when the alarm "chirps,"-- due to a low battery. Replace any smoke alarm that is more than 10 years old. An estimated 890 lives could be saved each year if all homes had working smoke detectors. 

Exercise cooking safety.
Individuals should remain in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If one must leave, even for a short time, he or she should turn off the stove. Always keep a lid nearby when cooking. If a small grease fire starts in a pan, smother the flames by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Do not move the pan or remove the cover until the pan is cool. 

Forty percent of home fires start in the kitchen; electric ranges or stoves have a higher risk for causing fires, injuries and property damage and death than gas ranges or stoves. 

Be careful when using candles. Keep candles at least 12 inches away from flammable objects, and extinguish them before leaving the room or going to sleep. Candle fires accounted for an estimated four percent of all reported home fires in 2005. The holidays are particularly susceptible to cause home fires; Christmas, Christmas Eve, New Years Day, New Years Eve and Halloween are the top five days for home candle fires. 

Be sure to give space heaters clear space. Like candles, keep space heaters away from flammable objects - at least three feet - and turn them off before leaving the room or going to sleep. Heating fires are the second cause of home fires. January and December were the peak months for home fires in 2006. 

Have an escape plan. Make a home fire escape plan and include such topics as: a safe meeting place; the name and location of a nearby neighbor if a fire starts when the children are home alone; the correct emergency number to call and report the fire; the home address. 

For more fire prevention information, call the fire prevention office at 764-4275 or visit