Fire Prevention Week: Stay fire smart, don't get burned

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- As we approach the anniversary of one of the largest disasters of the 19th century, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, we must remind ourselves of the importance of safe fire practices.

Fire Prevention Week shouldn't simply be a one week affair, but a lifetime routine that we practice ourselves and teach to our children. Fire and burns are the leading cause for household injuries and deaths in the United States and the third most common source, according to the home safety council.

This is such an unfortunate statistic that is only compounded more when taking into consideration how simple it is to take preventative measures -- and yet the measures are so often not done.

When used correctly, the following helpful tips will prevent the spread of fire and lead to a safer 2010.

To start, a space heater can be the most dangerous appliance brought into a home. Follow these steps to eliminate or decrease the likelihood of causing a fire:
- Carefully inspect space heaters prior to every time you turn them on.
- Do not store newspapers, rags, or other combustible materials nearby a furnace, hot water heater, or space heater and don't leave space heaters operating when non one is in the room.
- Keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that might burn, to include the wall.
- Don't use extension cords with electrical space heaters. They should be plugged directly into a wall. The high amount of current required could melt the extension cord and start a fire.

Secondly, careless cooking is the number one cause of residential fires in the U.S. Consider these simple steps:
- Never pour water on a grease fire; turn off the heating source and cover the pan with a lid, or close the oven door.
- Don't store items on the cooking element, as they could catch fire. Keep kitchen appliances clean and in good working condition and turned off and disconnect them when not in use.
- Consider dressing for cooking success. An electrical coil on the stove reaches a temperature of 800 degrees Fahrenheit. A gas flame can reach 1,000 degrees. The average dish towel or pot holder will catch fire at 400 degrees and so can a bathrobe, apron or loose sleeve. Be sure your stove is not located under a window in which curtains are hanging.
- Clean the exhaust hood and duct over the stove regularly and wipe up spilled grease as soon as the surface of the stove is cool.

Thirdly, unless candles are used safely and watched carefully, they can often lead to accidental fires. According to the National Candle Association, more than 15,000 candle fires are reported annually. The bulk of fires are due to consumer inattention. Here are some safety steps to follow:
- Keep candles out of reach of children and pets. Do not place lighted candles where they can be knocked over by children, pets or anyone else.
- Place burning candles at least three inches apart from one another. This is to make sure they don't melt one another, or create their own drafts that will cause the candles to burn improperly.
- Be sure the candleholder is placed on a stable, heat-resistant surface. This will also help prevent possible heat damage to counters and table surfaces and prevent glass containers from cracking or breaking.
- Always keep a burning candle within sight. Extinguish all candles when leaving a room or before going to sleep.

In the event a fire does occur, consider fire safety and fire safe actions. It is important to know what to do in case of a fire. Do not stay in the house but get out and call 9-1-1 from a neighbor's home or cell phone. Remember that if you call via a cell phone, inform the Fairbanks dispatcher that you are on Eielson Air Force Base. 

Practice exit procedures with your family. Teach children to stay low when escaping a fire. Home fire safety is a vital part of protecting members of your household from the devastating effects of a fire. By following these fire prevention tips, you and your family can prevent these situations from turning into possible serious injury, loss of life and property damage.