LIMA — State Fire Marshal Jeff Hussey spoke during an event at American Township Fire Department Monday kicking off Fire Prevention Week in Lima, which officially began Sunday.
“The public mostly sees us responding to calls — EMS, fire and so forth,” said Bath Township Fire Chief Joseph Kitchen. “But they don’t understand that it is our mission to keep those fires from happening.”
During fire prevention week, fire departments set aside their normal duties to go out to schools and to the public and teach fire safety, he said. Prevention week has been going on since 1922 and correlates with the Great Chicago Fire, Hussey said.
There were almost 11,000 residential fires in 2017 in Ohio claiming 109 lives. As of Friday, statistics for 2018 showed almost 90 people have died so far this year.
“Most of the time, this is happening in peoples’ homes, the place where we have the most control,” Hussey said. “We should be preventing these fires. When we see fatal fires at the marshal’s office, we almost always see the same situation: no smoke detectors or non-working smoke detectors.”
Hussey said it’s imperative people make certain their smoke detectors work, have fresh batteries and get replaced every 10 years because early warnings saves lives.
One fire safety tip the fire departments will be sharing with people this year is the importance of sleeping with the bedroom door closed. Hussey has seen photographs of severe house fires where the home had been completely gutted by the flames, and yet a room behind a closed door was untouched.
“Somebody would have survived in that environment,” he said. “I think most laypeople don’t realize how much protection a closed door gives you. It keeps the smoke from coming in there.”
He also encouraged people to pay closer attention when cooking. The primary cause of house fires is people getting distracted by social media, cell phones and other interruptions and losing focus on what they’re cooking.
“I think, for us as fire departments, we need to push more for the adults, to work more with the adults on fire prevention,” said American Township Fire Chief Thomas Hadding. “We’re always in the schools, but we’re not really pushing it with adults.”
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362