Don’t be Burnin’ Down the House

City of Kentwood Fire Marshal Tim Maday
City of Kentwood Fire Marshal Tim Maday

mike_dewittThe discovery of fire gave man the ability to harness heat and light. With fire, the human race can cook, heat their home, and light fireworks on the 4th of July! While fire is a powerful tool, it can also be a hazard if not handled with care. As Uncle Ben wisely told Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

With summer winding down, and fall just over the horizon, City of Kentwood Fire Marshal Tim Maday was kind enough to give us the low-down on staying safe with fire.

Did the use of firework on the 4th of July cause any fires, deaths or injuries this year?

The biggest issue with fireworks on July 4th actually deals with the noise pollution they cause. They’re loud and people don’t like hearing them. Three times as many fireworks were sold in Michigan this year, and as a result, injuries and deaths resulting from fireworks increased. With most of these accidents, alcohol is involved. Alcohol and fireworks do not mix well! On a positive note, there were no fires as a result of Independence Day fireworks!

When it comes to grilling, is it safe to use gas or charcoal? How many grill calls do you get a year?

Gas is safer, because you can turn off the heat source. There fortunately aren’t many fires as a result of grilling gone wrong. Maybe 1 or 2 a year.

Make sure to cover a grease fire
Make sure to cover a grease fire

How about cooking fires? What’s that usually a result of?

Cooking fires usually happen when the stove or oven is left unattended. Never leave your stove or oven unattended! Grease fires are usually the cooking fires that get out of hand. If you ever have a grease fire in the kitchen, SMOTHER IT! Make sure it’s smothered with a top of equal size to the pan.

Do not put water on it. Water will enhance the fire and cause an explosion. Throwing baking soda or flour on a grease fire won’t squelch it either. If you don’t have a lid to cover a grease fire, turn off the stove, call 9-1-1, and get out of the house. No personal item is worth dying over.

With fall coming, and the weather dropping, people are going to start using their chimneys more often. How often should you clean your chimney?

You should clean your chimney once each season if you’re a heavy chimney user. If you’re going to get your chimney cleaned or inspected, make sure you call a licensed professional to do the job!

Wrapping paper, for the birthdays and holidays, can it be burnt in the chimney?

Yes it can. It’s very similar to newspaper. Just make sure you burn a reasonable amount at a time. Don’t just throw all of it in at one time!

Don't let your Christmas tree dry out!
Don’t let your Christmas tree dry out!

Are Christmas trees problematic to have in the house?

Christmas trees are a huge fire hazard. You need to make sure you keep it watered. If a Christmas tree gets dry, it’s much more likely to catch fire. When it comes to lights on the tree, the new LED lights are a very safe choice. They burn cooler and aren’t as hazardous as older lights.

Where’s the best location for a smoke alarm? How often should they be changed?

Every bedroom on every floor should have a smoke alarm. Even the hallways should have one. Smoke alarms only have a 10 year shelf life. So, switch them out after a decade. There are new smoke alarms that come with a built-in 10 year battery. When the battery is about to die, the alarm beeps and lets you know it’s time for a new one!

If a fire breaks out in the house, what steps should be taken?

First off, every family needs to have a plan. Where to meet, how to get out of the house, etc. Have the family meet up down the street or at a neighbor’s house. Some place where you’re away from the house and can get a quick headcount. Go through the different paths to get out of your house, whether it be doors or windows. Let your children know that if they’re stuck in the house, they need to find a window and stay by it! Windows are a firefighters quickest entry into the house and the safest place to be if you can’t get out. Don’t hide under the bed or in a closet.

Takes these fire safety tips and stay safe the rest of 2015!