Fire prevention takes center stage

Clarissa Kell | Daily Press Jim Nowack, of the Spalding Township Volunteer Fire Department, uses a pressurized water fire extinguisher to demonstrate how to properly use a fire extinguisher as Les Srnka, another member of the department, controls the fire simulator at the Spalding Township Fire Hall recently. The simulator, which was purchased through a Hannahville grant, is used to train local businesses on how to properly use a fire extinguisher in an environmentally-friendly way. The system can control the intensity of the fire. Once it senses the extinguisher being properly used, it shuts down the fire.

SPALDING TOWNSHIP — This week — Fire Prevention Week — is dedicated to teaching fire safety.

Dan Hammerberg, Spalding Township fire chief and Region 1 training division coordinator for the Bureau of Fire Service, spoke on the importance of developing fire escape plans and other safety tips.

“We continue to have losses of life due to fire and we are trying to eliminate it to zero,” he said. “I think a lot of people think a fire will never happen to them, so we try to educate them to be prepared in the event they would have a fire.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, Fire Prevention Week is observed each year during the week of Oct. 9 in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire.

Hammerberg noted there was another fire with even more lives lost around the same time of the Great Chicago Fire closer to the U.P. — the Peshtigo Fire.

“Peshtigo happened at the same time with bigger loss of life. Chicago got more notoriety because it’s a bigger city,” he said.

This year, the campaign is “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!” The campaign works to educate people about the small, but important, actions they can take to keep themselves and those around them safe.

Hammerberg said having a fire escape plan allows families to have more peace of mind, and practicing helps them be proactive instead of reactive in the event of a fire.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, in a typical home fire, occupants may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time a smoke alarm sounds.

Although the Fire Prevention Week campaign focuses on home fires, local fire departments are also called to vehicle fires, brush fires and other emergencies like car accidents.

When it comes to the most common causes of house fires, Hammerberg said it’s usually cooking, heating or electrical in nature.

“Those I’d say would be the top three,” he said.

According to Hammerberg, there are other ways for people to be prepared for a fire besides creating an escape plan and practicing.

He said people should have working smoke detectors within their homes and conduct tests monthly. He added people should also check to make sure their smoke detectors are not older than 10 years old.

Another tip provided by Hammerberg is to make sure chimneys are clean if firewood is being burned in the home. He said if people are burning wood within their home, they should also make sure they’re using dry fire wood.

As some fires are electrical in nature, Hammerberg said people should make sure they’re not over using electrical extensions cords and power strips.

He said people should always have a fire extinguisher available and know how to use it.

In the event of a house fire, Hammerberg provided three safety tips.

“Immediately call 911, no matter how small the fire, to get the fire departments rolling,” he said. “Be sure everyone is safe and out of the structure. Don’t re-enter the structure once you’re out.”

Many local township volunteer fire departments have planned various educational community events throughout the week in observance of Fire Prevention Week.

For more information on local volunteer fire departments, look for the special tribute section in today’s edition of the Daily Press and Sunday’s edition of the U.P. Action.