Schools, firefighters team up for safety

Fire prevention week

Oct. 6-12 marks the return of National Fire Prevention Week, an opportunity for Oregonians to learn how to keep themselves and their families safe from fire.

Fire Prevention Week activities in Hood River County involve children in public schools between the grades of kindergarten and 2nd being visited by firefighters. They are taught important life-saving principles of what to do in case of fire, according to Devon Wells, City of Hood River Fire Marhsal. Private schools in the county are also making a visit to the fire station to learn these same topics. Firefighters have gone to May Street, Pine Grove, Parkdale, and West Side Elementary Schools, and private schools visited the Hood River Fire Department, between Oct. 1-9.

Usually, the Hood River Fire Department hosts a “Public Education Week,” according to Wells.

“This year the show went on the road,” he said.

Each year, nearly 1,000 school children between kindergarten and second Grade are taught by the fire department. This year, 911 dispatchers have joined the effort to provide safety information to the youths.

Topics include the “ABCs of Fire Safety,” and “Stop, Drop, and Roll,” along with “Crawl Low in Smoke,” and proper 911 use. Wells said the in-school visits did not change one important part of the education week: touring the ladder truck and squirting water.

Fire Prevention Week is observed each year throughout North America and Europe. It observes the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, which killed 250 people and destroyed a large part of the city on Oct. 9, 1871.

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Governor John Kitzhaber has proclaimed Oct. 6-12 as Fire Prevention Week. Fire Prevention Week is an opportunity for Oregonians to learn how to keep themselves and their families safe from fire.

The theme for this year’s campaign is “Team Up for Safety.” The theme encourages families to recognize the role they play in keeping their home fire-safe by focusing on three key safety messages: installing and testing smoke alarms; practicing home escape plans; and hunting for home hazards.

According to data gathered by the Office of State Fire Marshal, the majority of structure fires occur in the home, and most of these fires are preventable. In 2001, there were 3,986 residential structure fires. These fires caused 32 deaths, 176 injuries with an estimated property loss of $64.7 million. The most common causes of residential fires are cooking, heating and careless smoking.

“Join with firefighters and emergency responders to team up for fire safety by ensuring your family is prepared to prevent or survive a fire,” said State Fire Marshal Robert Garrison.

Garrison offers the following safety tips for preventing residential fires:

* Keep an eye on what’s cooking and stay in the kitchen. Keep cooking surfaces clean and free of grease build-up. If you have a grease or pan fire, slide a lid onto the pan to smother the flames.

* Keep clothing, furnishings, drapes, newspapers and other things that can burn at least three feet away from portable heaters, fireplaces and woodstoves. Turn portable heaters off when you go to bed or leave home.

* Clean and inspect your chimney and woodstove at least once a year; twice a year if wood is your main source of heat. Place ashes outdoors in a covered metal container at least three feet away from anything that burns.

* Inspect electrical cords and plugs for fraying and cracking. Keep cords from under rugs. Replace any damaged cords. Avoid overloading circuits or using extension cords.

* If there are smokers in your home, make sure ashtrays are large and deep and won’t tip over. Douse cigarette and cigar butts with water before discarding them. Keep matches and lighters up high and out of children’s sight and reach.

* Install smoke alarms outside each sleeping area, on every level of your home and in each bedroom. Test smoke alarms monthly and vacuum the covers to remove dust and cobwebs. Never disconnect smoke alarms or remove batteries. Replace smoke alarms that are ten years old or older.

* Make a home escape plan and practice it twice a year with the whole family.

Free home safety checklists, which can help families conduct a thorough home inspection are available on the OSFM web site at www.sfm.state.or.us. Additionally, many Oregon fire departments are sponsoring special Fire Prevention Week activities in their communities.

Locally, the following organizations have donated time and money to the fire prevention program, according to Wells: 2nd Winds, Real Carbon, E&L Auto Parts, Coburn Electric, Gary Regalbuto, Full Sail Brewing Company, Herschner and Bell-Farell Company, Walter Wells and Sons, Cascade Central Credit, Don Nunamkaer, Columbia River Bank, Luhr-Jensen, Inc., Gorge Electric, Mt. Hood Railroad, Waste Connections, Hogg and Davis, Crazy Pepper, McIsaac’s Store, Covenant Christian Counseling, Parkdale Grange, and the City of Hood River. For more information regarding Fire Prevention Week, or how to donate to the Prevention Week Fund, please contact Devon Wells, Fire Marshal for the Hood River Fire Department at 386-9458 ext 12 or e-mail at devon@ci.hood-river.or.us.

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