KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Home fires are most often caused by cooking, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Oct. 4-10 is National Fire Prevention Week, and this year’s theme is “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!”
Paul Trumpore, the Knoxville Fire Department’s Public Education Officer, said it’s important to talk about fire prevention tips every year because we all take safety practices for granted.
“The use of candles, and matches and lighters laying around and just um the safety precautions of keeping things that burn away from things that can get hot cause you put them together you can make a fire. So, we take so many of those things for granted and we need some time every year to remember that,” Trumpore said.
Trumpore said it’s very important to start young when it comes to teaching fire prevention.
Every year, the Knoxville Fire Department brings the Fire Safety House trailer to schools to teach kids about the dangers of fire and what to do when there is one.
“We really try to teach, you have to have two ways out. The first way out is your door, and the second way out is a window. But most people don’t go out their window. And most people have never practiced going out their window. And most people have never encouraged their children to practice because their afraid they’ll sneak out,” Trumpore said.
Trumpore said there are ways to make sure children don’t sneak out of their windows, so that shouldn’t be a reason to cut off an important option for escaping a fire.
He said they usually see about 17,000 kids a year.
Trumpore knows their outreach works because ever since they created Safety City and the Fire Safety House, he’s seen a big drop in fire loss, the number of kids accidentally starting fires and the number of kids dying from fires.
He said if they don’t visit a school, unfortunately those numbers might go back up.
“In fact I had a school, a few years ago that wouldn’t let us come in for a few years because they were so busy, and their numbers went through the roof with (the number of kids starting fires). I was trying to make a test case out of that, but it ended up being a test case,” Trumpore said.
Trumpore said children are taught from a young age to essentially enjoy fire.
“On a birthday cake of a two-year-old, and you’re teaching them about blowing out the candles. What you’re teaching them is you have power over fire because you can blow it out. Where in actuality, a fire on a candle is the biggest fire that you can blow out,” Trumpore said.
Trumpore said kids then want to see how those candles work, or how fire works in general. So they find lighters or matches and try to use them on their own.
He said he teaches kids that whenever the find a lighter or a match, they shouldn’t touch it because it can be dangerous and immediately tell an adult, don’t bring it to them.
On that note, Trumpore said parents need to only keep the number of lighters in their house at a minimum and out of reach.
He said kids will find them, even if you think they don’t know where the lighters or matches are.
The Rural Metro Fire Department also visits schools with a similar trailer to teach kids about fire safety.
Jeff Bagwell, spokesperson for Rural Metro, said kids are like sponges and retain a lot of information, which is why it’s important to teach them at a young age about fire prevention and what to do in case of emergencies.
“A young person called 911 for for a family member being stricken with a heart attack. This young person was six. Dialed 911, gave the information because the fire department had been in their school and taught them how to dial 911 and what information to give,” Bagwell said.
Bagwell said it’s important for everyone to practice their escape routes in case of a fire.
He said this time of year is perfect for Fire Prevention Week because it’s about to be their busiest season.
Fall and winter is when the leaves start falling and people want brush fires, space heaters are turned on because it’s cold and lots of family cooking for the holidays.
For leaves, Bagwell said it’s important to request a burn permit if that’s the prefer method of getting rid of them.
When applying for the permit, there will be instructions for how to burn leaves safely and not cause a wild fire.
For space heaters, Bagwell said make sure they have a temperature reader and extra safety features like an automatic shut off if it knocks over.
He said most fires can be blamed on two aspects: lack of attention/careless or electrical.
Bagwell used the example of teenagers cooking Ramen Noodles on the stove.
“As they’re boiling water on the stove, they get a phone call. Well, what do teenagers want to do? They want to talk on the phone where they’ll leave this burning on the stove to potentially start a fire,” Bagwell said.
Same can happen when leaving biscuits in the oven and forgetting about them.
Bagwell said people said fire prevention is also about having the proper tools to detect a fire and extinguish it.
He said a smoke detector needs to be in every room of the house, and the batteries need to be changed every time the clock has to be set an hour forward or behind.
Bagwell also brought up having the proper fire extinguishers in the house, knowing how to use it and where it is at all times.
Lastly, Bagwell said people need to know it’s okay to call 911 for any fire, no matter how small.
Don’t try to extinguish the fire first, then call.
“They’ll try to extinguish it themselves. And then when it finally intensifies to the point where they can’t extinguish it, then they call us. Well, then it’s too late. When we arrive, we’re behind the 8-ball and it’s hard to save anything. Call us first. We would much rather show up and not be needed,” Bagwell said.
Both Bagwell and Trumpore said that because of COVID-19, they aren’t able to go to schools and teach about fire safety.
Trumpore said they can still teach families individually if they believe their child might be too curious about fire.
To learn about the city’s juvenile firesetter intervention program, call 865-595-4480.
Here are some fire prevention tips from The American Red Cross:
- Test your smoke alarms monthly.
- Place smoke alarms on each level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas.
- Change the batteries at least once a year, if your model requires it.
- Check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they need to be replaced because the sensor becomes less sensitive over time. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Practice your escape plan until everyone can get out in less than two minutes.
- Include at least two ways to exit every room in your home.
- Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet.
- Teach children what a smoke alarm sounds like. Talk about fire safety and what to do in an emergency.
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