A fireman's story

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- You never think it could happen to you. According to the National Fire Protection Association, candles are becoming an increasingly prevalent cause of home fires. Candles start fires in more than 18,000 homes and the numbers are rising every year.

According to the National Candle Association, seven out of 10 households use candles. Many people don't realize how quickly something can go wrong and don't know the rules for safe candle use.

One-third of these fires occurred after candles were left unattended, abandoned or inadequately controlled. One-quarter of the fires occurred when combustible materials came too close to the flame. And six percent were started by people -- usually children-playing with candles. This could be you:

A Fireman's Story

On Friday the 13th of all days, I was running errands and doing some grocery shopping with my 18-month-old son.

While we were in the checkout line I received a call from my wife, she said the smoke alarms were going off again.

This has happened in the past with one in the bedroom going off. Usually just taking it down and cleaning it out takes care of the problem -- but never had they all went off simultaneously, so I told my wife to call the fire department and get out of the house.

While leaving the commissary I saw cop cars flying past so I thought something must be wrong so I hurried home. When I was pulling up to my court, I saw the other shift charging the hydrant and my wife was hanging out the upstairs window because she could not get down the steps due to heavy smoke; my heart dropped, I handed the first cop my baby boy and took off running. I wanted to climb up and get her down but the guys held me back.

While crews were extinguishing the fire, Tech. Sgt. John Smith made his way upstairs where my wife was and helped her out of the second story window; she was treated at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital for smoke inhalation and released later on that night.

We were glad that our four children were not at home and that she is doing great. We found out that day that the fire had started when an iron candle holder that had been hanging there for almost five years had fallen off the wall and caught our living room on fire.

Thanks to the quick response from the fire department and the rest of the base emergency personnel, my wife was safe and the fire didn't spread to other units. Most of our loss was caused from smoke damage and like we preach at the fire department, always buy renters insurance to cover damages to your property and the base housing unit because as military members, I don't think more than $20,000  is easy to come by to replace damages. 

My wife and I would like to thank the fire department. We will always be in their debt for saving her. 

Fires from candles are preventable. You can reduce the chance of a fire by following these simple fire safety tips.
- Keep matches, lighters and candles out the reach of children.
- Never leave burning candles unattended
- Keep combustible material away from candles
- Don't put candles in a location where children or pets could knock them over.
- Use only noncombustible candle holders.
- Always trim the wicks before lighting.

Candles can add warmth and ambience to a room but they can turn deadly if not handled properly and with due caution. For more fire safety tips, contact Mr. Grant Smith or Master Sg. Ed Urbi at Eielson's Fire Prevention, 377-1293.