October means time to focus on fire prevention

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October is Fire Prevention Month and to spread the word, the Westminster Fire Department is providing learning opportunities throughout the month to teach adults and youngsters fire safety tips.

Fire Prevention month started after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Since then the President of the United States proclaims Fire Prevention Week to land during the week that includes the date of the fire, Oct. 8-9.

But the city extends that tradition the entire month.

This year’s national theme is “Prevent Kitchen Fires.”

“Kitchen fires are the number one cause of fire injuries in the U.S.,” said public education officer Sherrie Leeka.

“The biggest things we are trying to remind people about are never leave cooking food unattended and when it comes to grease fires on the stove, always just put a lid on it and turn off the heat.”

Although the theme is geared around kitchen fires, Fire Prevention Month also focuses on integration of fire safety behaviors into daily activities.

Leeka said it’s very important for families to have a home escape plan with two ways out, practice the plan twice a year and to always check smoke alarms.

During a recent call, the fire department responded to a structure fire at 3 a.m. on Sept. 23. The firefighters found the fire in the dryer, extinguished it and removed the dryer from the home.

Nobody was hurt in the fire because of the smoke alarm.

“The smoke caused the alarm to sound and the family evacuated and called for help - saving their home from serious damage and more importantly, possibly saving their lives,” said Public Information Officer Diana Wilson.

To reach the community with fire tips, the fire department is hosting an open house on Oct. 19 at Fire Station 4 as well as manning a booth at the Halloween Carnival on Oct. 26 at City Park Recreation Center.

Leeka and some other firefighters are also sharing tips through an educational program for third graders at Westminster elementary schools.

During the program, Leeka will be teaching the students about arson and home exit drills through fun games. And every child goes home with a fire safety bag.

“We really focus on teaching the kids what arson means and that they can go to jail if they’re involved in arson,” she said.

“It’s amazing how many kids don’t know what it means. So it’s important to teach them the consequences.”

For more information on fire safety, visit www.firepreventionweek.org