2017-10-06 / Viewpoint

Home fires burn fast and furious, so every second counts


October is normally known for Halloween with witches, zombies, goblins and vampires inhabiting haunted houses in ghostly and ghastly venues.

However, if you want to see something that’s really scary, watch a video of how fast a tiny spark morphs into a house fire. In certain conditions it takes just minutes from spark to full involvement. Just tune into any of several YouTube videos and you’ll see some frighteningly fast home fires. Inside of a minute… that’s 60 seconds, a small fire can turn into a conflagration.

National Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 8-14 with the theme ‘Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out.’ Since 1911, Americans have been observing some form of fire prevention week. Fires were a leading cause of death in America during the 19th and 20th centuries.

According to fire prevention experts, homes are built of highly flammable materials such as vinyl siding and plywood.

As a former fire fighter and home fire survivor, I can attest that seconds count when you are dealing with a house fire.

Fort Gordon Emergency Services observes Fire Prevention Week with several demonstrations starting with a static display Monday, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., at the Fort Gordon AAFES Exchange, and a demonstration in the Freedom Park Elementary School gym, Tuesday, at 9 and 10 a.m. More displays are planned for various locations on post throughout the week.

In 2013, there were 1,240,000 fires reported in the United States. These fires caused 3,468 deaths, 15,925 civilian injuries and $11.5 billion in property damage.

Since Jan. 1, Georgia has suffered 58 civilian fatalities attributed to home fires.

For the last several years, the rate of deaths from fires in the U.S. has hovered around 3,400 down from 2006’s 3,940 deaths.

Local fire prevention experts advise families to plan for the unexpected.

“It’s important for families to have an emergency escape plan. The escape plan should feature at least two escape routes out of the house,” said Capt. Joseph

T. Hamm, Fort Gordon Fire and Emergency Services. “Having at least two escape routes give a family an alternate route during a fire or other home emergency where they must evacuate quickly.”

Here are some facts and more tips to help make your home a safer place from fire hazards.

Fire facts

Fire is FAST! In less than 30 seconds a small flame can turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for thick black smoke to fill a house or for it to be engulfed in flames.

• Fire is HOT! Heat is more threatening than flames. Room temperatures in a fire can be 100 degrees at floor level and rise to 600 degrees at eye level. Inhaling this super-hot air will scorch your lungs and melt clothes to your skin.

• Fire is DARK! Fire starts bright, but quickly produces black smoke and complete darkness.

• Fire is DEADLY! Smoke and toxic gases kill more people than flames do. Fire produces poisonous gases that make you disoriented and drowsy. Asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths, exceeding burns by a three-to-one ratio.

Fire prevention tips

• Draw a map of your home by using a grid in with all members of your household, marking at least two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.

• Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.

• Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.

• Make sure the address number of your home is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find.

• Install smoke detectors and ensure the batteries are changed every year, preferably in January.

• Close doors behind you as you leave – this may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire.

• Get outside, stay outside. Never go back inside a burning building.

Take some time this month to make your home a little safer and less scary from fire hazards by having a family meeting to ensure that everyone knows what to do in the event of a house fire. If you get a chance, stop by one of the fire prevention programs.

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