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Fire safety education key for Cape Coral Fire Department; home safety stressed during nationwide awareness event

By Staff | Oct 4, 2008

Fire safety can save lives. Without safety, fire can take them.

That’s why the Cape Coral Fire Department urges home fire safety, the theme of this year’s National Fire Prevention Week, from Oct. 5-11.

“If it’s not brought to everyone’s attention, they don’t necessarily think about very little things that they can do,” said Dave Webster, public education assistant with the CCFD. “Making them aware of the danger of fire increases the probability of them staying safe. Our public education effort is a 12-month-a-year effort.”

The Cape Coral Fire Department has reported 236 residential fires so far this year, just shy of the 246 residential fires reported in 2007.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, approximately 40,000 house fires occurred in the United States in 2006.

“There’s been a lot more home fires than there should be nationally,” Webster said. “Education is key in our mind.”

There are simple steps residents can follow to help prevent fires from occurring in their homes, Webster said.

Residents should own a multi-class fire extinguisher, check the pressure gauge weekly or monthly and shake it upside down occasionally to ensure the powder doesn’t harden, he said.

A fire extinguisher for home use runs about $35, versus the price it costs to refill one, about $60.

“If you’re only going to have one, it should be located in the kitchen by the door,” Webster said.

The extinguisher should be by a door so the user has a way to exit if unsuccessful in extinguishing a fire in their home, and it should be in the kitchen because a house fires commonly start in the kitchen, he said.

“Top of the list was kitchen fires,” Webster said. “It’s almost always a product of inattention.”

Webster said to devote attention to cooking foods, keep combustible items away from the stove, have lids for pots nearby to suffocate possible fires and keep children and pets out of the kitchen when cooking.

Smoke detectors with working batteries are an important fire safety tool as well.

“Smoke alarms is something we continue to point to as a life-saving tool,” Webster said.

When a fire does occur, calling 911 first can make a crucial difference in a potentially lethal situation, Webster said.

“Dial 911 first,” he said. “Get us on the road before you even try to put the fire out. Fire doubles in size every 30 seconds; it probably takes five minutes to get us on scene. In 10 minutes, you have a tremendous fire.”

If neighbors notice smoke or fire coming from a home, they should call 911 immediately.

“There’s no such thing as a fire too small to call 911 for,” Webster said.

Webster offered some other basic home fire safety tips:

* use multi-strip heavy-duty extension chords with fuses and on/off switches.

* If using a fire extinguisher and a fire continues to grow, move to a safe location to await the arrival of fire fighters.

* Never enter a burning home. Always call 911 immediately.

* Discuss a fire escape route with children and family members.

* Practice the route regularly.

Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bronson offers these tips:

* Keep roofs cleared of flammable debris such as pine straw or dead leaves.

* Landscape in a home’s immediate perimeter with trees spaced at least 15 feet apart, and prune lower limbs near the home.

* Home addresses should be clearly visible from the street for emergency vehicles to see.

The Cape Coral Fire Department continues to educate children of all ages, visiting local schools daily and keeping an active role in the community.

“The children are our best vehicles for getting the info home to mom and dad,” Webster said.