Fire prevention: Decisions can save lives

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The Southington Fire Chief said the department has had a busy start to year 2020 with a number of home and apartment fires. While the fires are still under investigation as far as the exact cause, Chief Richard Butler hopes residents of Southington will take precautions when it comes to protecting their homes.

“Preventing a fire is much, much better than fighting a fire,” said Butler. “Today’s fires burn very hot and very fast. People’s lives go up in smoke—it’s devastating.”

Because many common household objects are made from synthetic materials, modern fires burn quickly, and create dense, dark smoke. Fifty years ago, a person would have an average of 20 minutes to escape in a home fire. Today, the average is about four minutes.

“The very first thing you should do in a fire is call 911,” said Butler. “Do not attempt to fight the fire yourself. Many times, people attempt to fight it themselves. By the time they call us, the fire has made significant headway and that makes it that much more difficult for us to fight it.”

The second priority, after calling 911, is to get everyone out of the home. One of the most important thing a family should do is to have a plan ahead of time.

“It’s very important that you have a plan in place to get out of the home,” Butler said. “Parents should teach kids what to do in case of a fire.”

In a recent apartment fire in town, a child’s bedroom was found to look almost completely untouched by a fire that consumed the rest of the apartment. The bedroom door had been shut, preventing the fire from entering the room. Butler encouraged parents to keep their children’s doors shut at night in order to protect them from a fire.

The most important precaution families can take to protect their homes is to have working smoke detectors. They should be checked regularly.

Though spring is just around the corner, it is important that families remain vigilant when using fireplaces and space heaters to warm their homes. Keep flammable items far away from these appliances. After a fire in a fireplace goes out, remove the ashes and place them in an airtight metal container and place the container outside. Ashes often contain embers that can reignite.

Southington Fire Chief Richard Butler

Keep hand towels and other materials away from stovetops when cooking. In the garage, be aware of flammable liquids like gasoline. Oiled rags should also be placed in an airtight metal container.

Chief Butler also recommends that people get their chimneys inspected, and that they make fires with seasoned wood. Unseasoned wood can leave a tar-like substance on the insides of chimneys that can catch on fire if built up.

“That can be dangerous, particularly in older homes,” said Butler. “If there is a crack in the flue, that will allow the fire to escape, which can lead to attic fires.”

Though there have been a number of home or apartment fires this year, Chief Butler said it is not a trend—they were all believed to be started from different causes. The best thing homeowners can do to protect from fires is to take the proper precautions and be vigilant.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at News@SouthingtonObserver.com.