Six people died in separate house fires across the state.
Pikesville, Md (KM) The Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office is reminding residents to practice fire safety in their homes. This follows the deaths of six people in four house fires this past weekend.
“Fire does not discriminate. It doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, what type of home you live in. If it has the opportunity, it can break out and occur at any point. And it will grow and flourish until there’s a means to stave it,” says Bruce Bouch, Deputy Senior State Fire Marshal.
He says one way to save yourself if there is a fire is to have working smoke alarms on all levels of the home. He says they usually work when a fire occurs. “However, they may not operate as early as needed. In most cases, when a fire begins in a home, you have about three-minutes before enough smoke and toxic gases develop that they can take over most of the home, rendering it very unsafe for anyone still inside,” says Bouch.
The Fire Marshal’s Office strongly recommends you change the batteries in your smoke alarm once a year, and replace it every ten years. In fact, fire officials urge residents to change their smoke alarm batteries when reverting back to Daylight Savings Time, which begins this weekend.
Bouch also says you need to take precautions if you smoke. “You smoke outdoors. And make sure you have a nice, deep ashtray and insure that the cigarette butt is completely out before you walk away,” he says. Fire officials say there are still instances where cigarette buts are not completely out, and are tossed into the mulch around the home, or thrown into a container with many cigarette butts. That will cause fire to ignite around the area near the container.
He also says electric wires need to be checked for fraying and cracking. “The insulation around them can crack over time, exposing the wire that it’s designed to hide. When that exposure occurs, you have the potential for not only for a shock hazard, but an arcing that could cause a fire to begin,” says Bouch.
You may want to use your fireplace to stay warm for the remainder of the winter. But you need to keep fire safety in mind, says Bouch. “You want to insure that the chimney itself is clean. If you burned a considerable amount of wood, you may want to consider having that checked out because creosote is a very dangerous aspect when it comes to burning wood,” he says.
Fire officials say have chimney cleaned and inspected, and burn only seasoned, dry wood to prevent a creosote buildup.
For those who use an electric space heater, Bouch says they should be plugged directly into an outlet, and no extension cords. “Please insure that it’s on a solid surface that has a three-foot circumference all around it where nothing combustible is near it. That way you cannot catch anything on fire,” he says.
Fire officials say have an escape plan in place in case of a fire, and practice it from time to time. Have a pre-determined meeting place, and once you’re out, stay out.
By Kevin McManus