This is National Fire Prevention Week, and, with the cooler weather moving us indoors, it's a good time to assess fire safety in our homes.
Nationwide, there were 369,500 residential fires in 2010, the National Fire Protection Association reported. According to the NFPA, 13,350 people (not including firefighters) were injured, and 2,640 were killed. Those fires caused $6.9 billion in damage.
Westlake has been lucky the past few years. Between January of 2010 and January of 2012, there have been 53 residential fires. Most were small, said Westlake Fire Department assistant fire chief Jim Hughes. Two fires were complete losses totaling $240,000. In all, residential fire damages were $451,517 over those two years.
In that time, there was only one injury.
But all it takes is one tragedy to change that. And there are different risks this time of year, Hughes said.
- Holiday decorations are one risk. "Corn stalks, hay, wreathes and Christmas trees may be pretty, but they're also combustible," Hughes said. Combine that with more candles being used this time of year from jack-o-lanterns to holiday tablescapes, and that increases the fire risk. Nationally, candles cause 35 home fires a day.
- People are still using outdoor grills and fire pits. Hughes urges residents to not give in to the temptation to move them closer to the house.
- Fireplaces are being used again. Hughes said fireplaces should be cleaned and checked annually to prevent the buildup of creosote, which causes chimney fires.
- Get your furnace serviced and make sure your home is properly ventilated. "Birds build nests in flue pipes, and that can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide," Hughes said.
- Don't forget about smoke detectors. Change the batteries when you change your clocks for the end of Daylight Savings Time on Nov. 4. Also, test your smoke detectors monthly. If your smoke detector is more than 10 years old, replace it.
- Even with the best practices, Hughes said, fires can happen. Knowing what to do is essential. "Make sure everyone knows two ways out of the house, and where to meet," Hughes said. According to the NFPA, only one-third of Americans have an escape plan for their home, and only half of those have practiced it.