Family fire smarts emphasized

Protect your family from fire is the theme of this year's Fire Prevention Week, a national awareness initiative that takes place Oct. 9-15.

Protect your family from fire is the theme of this year’s Fire Prevention Week, a national awareness initiative that takes place Oct. 9-15.

Rick Kwasnecha, fire investigator with Nanaimo Fire Rescue, said preventable fires occur in Nanaimo that result in needless loss of property and – in the past – life.

“We’ve had numerous preventable fires that have been major structure losses,” he said. “We see the same thing over and over, the same mistakes, different people.”

Kwasnecha divides this year’s fire prevention theme into three parts: smoke alarms, fire escape plans and being fire smart around the house.

Smoke alarms are vital to saving life and property, he said.

“The first thing is to make sure you have a smoke alarm, one on each floor of your house,” said Kwasnecha.

Place the alarms outside bedrooms, in corridors and entrance areas or by the furnace if the house has a basement – not outside bathrooms or the kitchen.

Alarms should be tested with real smoke – burn some toast – replace the batteries every six months or if the alarm is hard wired, replace it every 10 years, said Kwasnecha.

A recent townhouse fire might not have resulted in such severe damage or required a woman to jump out a second floor window if a smoke alarm had alerted her to the blaze earlier, said Kwasnecha.

Families should also have an evacuation plan that includes where to meet and how to get out.

Kwasnecha said it is important to go over the different exit routes with all household members and even practice it.

The third point is being fire conscious around the house.

Many of the fires Nanaimo crews respond to are cooking related, said Kwasnecha, caused by people leaving food cooking unattended on the stove or storing flammable items on stove burners or in the oven.

Smoking and electrical fires are also common, he said.

Flickering lights should be checked out, old appliances that don’t really work should be chucked and avoid overloading electrical plugs. Portable heaters should not be placed anywhere near flammable materials.

People need to make sure they dispose of cigarette butts properly, added Kwasnecha, as even butts disposed of outside, such as in a planter on a deck or in bark mulch, have resulted in major structure fires in the past.

Fire Prevention Week is recognized every October. While fewer fires are reported in Canada, Fire Prevention Canada reports an average of eight Canadians die from fire related incidents every week.

For more fire prevention tips, please visit www.fiprecan.ca.