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'Stay fire smart! Don't get burned,' officials urge

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

A national fire-safety organization is joining forces with local officials to emphasize to local residents the importance of minimizing their risk of becoming a fire victim.

Throughout this week, the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) is commemorating Fire Prevention Week. The observance began Sunday and extends through Saturday.

Judy Comoletti, the division manager of public education for the NFPA, said this year's theme is "Stay Fire Smart! Don't Get Burned," which focuses on the leading causes of fires as a whole.

According to Comoletti, one activity that is responsible for 40 percent of home fires can be linked to cooking equipment. "Cooking is the leading cause of home fires, specifically unattended cooking," she said.

"The safety message we want to get out to people is, you need to pay attention to your cooking. Stay in the kitchen if you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you must leave, even if it's for a short time, turn your stove top off."

Another leading cause of fires, Comoletti said, centers on the use of heating equipment in the home. She said in order to ensure safety, residents should have their central heating equipment inspected and cleaned each year, and should have their chimneys cleaned annually.

"If you have a portable space heater, keep it three feet away from anything that can burn," said Comoletti.

She also said smoking is another leading cause of fire-related deaths in the U.S. A number of precautions should be taken, she said, in order to ensure the safety of those who are exposed to smokers on a regular basis.

"Ask smokers to smoke outside the home, and provide them with deep, sturdy ashtrays," Comoletti said. "If medical oxygen is used in the home, make sure no one smokes."

The Henry County Fire Department issued a press release Sept. 24, in preparation for Fire Prevention Week. In the release, Fire Capt. Sabrina Puckett wrote that firefighters in the country have participated in the observance for 85 years, making it the "longest-running public health and safety observance on record."

In the release, Puckett reported "staggering" statistics regarding home fires. "Each year, roughly 3,000 people die as a result of home fires and burns, and more than 200,000 individuals are seen in the nation's emergency rooms for burn injuries," Puckett wrote.

The captain added that the most common burn injuries result from fire or flame burns, and can result in scarring or death. Still, she said, residents can take steps to protect themselves from the risk of those injuries.

"When we take extra caution in our homes, to ensure that the curling iron is out of children's reach, or pot handles are turned away from the edge of the stove, such injuries are entirely preventable," said Puckett. "Keeping our homes safe from fire, and preventing devastating burn injuries, is a healthy change we can make happen."

The fire department's statement contained several fire-safety tips for residents. The agency recommends that hot foods and liquids should be kept away from tables and counter edges, to prevent those items from being pulled or knocked over.

"Never hold a child in your arms, while preparing hot food or drinking a hot beverage," Puckett added. "Be careful when using things that get hot, such as curling irons ... lamps [or] heaters."

For more details, visit www.firepreventionweek.org. The NFPA also provides fire-safety information geared toward children, at www.sparky.org.