Every day somewhere in our state or nation, fires claim lives, destroy homes and reduce valuable natural resources to smoldering ashes.
This year's National Fire Prevention Week marks another coordinated effort by metropolitan, volunteer and wildland firefighters to focus our attention on the importance of fire prevention in the home, on the job and outdoors.
Though the theme for the national observance is "It's Fire Prevention Week, Prevent Home Fires," wildfire prevention also plays a very key role here in Texas in preventing the loss of homes and other improved property, as well as natural resources, said Bruce Woods, head of the mitigation and prevention department of the Texas Forest Service.
"One only has to look at the first half of this year to see the interrelationship of structural and wildland firefighting. Firefighting resources from around the nation were mobilized to Texas to help reduce home and natural resource losses," Woods said. "Practicing fire safety indoors and out can prevent most structural and wildland fires from occurring and sparing individuals and communities from damage and loss."
Assistant Fire Chief Duane Freeman with the Lufkin Fire Department also expressed concern about the amount and dryness of hurricane debris left to be disposed. Freeman echoed the need for fire safety in the home and out.
"While too many home fires still occur due to carelessness, the good news is that many are easily preventable," Freeman said. He enumerated several precautions that can reduce the likelihood of home fire damage or losses.
- Avoid overloading extension cords or electrical outlets. Replace damaged electrical cords and use extension cords for temporary wiring only.
- Never leave food cooking on the stove unattended.
- Store flammable liquids in outbuildings away from gas water heaters and other ignition sources.
- Make sure that you have smoke detectors installed, replace batteries with each time change and regularly check to make sure that detectors are working.
- Keep flammable materials away from ignition sources, such as space heaters or candles.
Implementing fire safety precautions outdoors is just as important, said Woods. Helpful fire prevention tips he suggested for the outdoors include:
- Establish wide control lines around burn receptacles and brush piles to be burned to help keep possible flying embers from reaching flammable vegetation.
- Dispose of smoking materials in vehicle ash trays to help prevent roadside wildfires
- Crushing smokes and matches in bare soil to help prevent fires caused by outdoor users.
- Avoid driving or parking in tall, dry grass.
- Build campfires in open, level spots away from trees and overhanging branches. Keep fires small and extinguish them cold to the touch before leaving.
A special safety concern is present in some areas damaged by Hurricane Ike, Woods said. He said that in areas where power is still out, local city and county officials strongly advise that all outdoor burning should be avoided, so residents without power can open windows without having to worry about getting smoked out.
Both Woods and Freeman agree that it will take a concerted effort by everyone - young and old - to avoid senseless destruction of lives, homes and the natural resources upon which many people and animals depend for their food and shelter.
"Please help your local firefighters protect your lives and property," Freeman said. "Practice good fire prevention both indoors and out. It's far less expensive to prevent fires than it is to replace property damaged or destroyed by fire, and some things just can't be replaced."