Just this past Thursday, a fire at an apartment building at 144th St. and West Maple Rd. rendered 30 residents (possibly more) homeless. All those inside the building were evacuated, and none were injured, although one person was taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. In December, another residential fire destroyed homes in a building just minutes from Thursday's fire. The December fire was caused by something burning that was not properly extinguished, and this may have been the case for the most recent fire too. Your home is likely your biggest investment, so we'd like to provide some tips to help prevent these awful fires:
- Some tips for directly preventing a fire include, as you likely already know: never leaving a burning candle unattended, never allowing a child to handle matches or other open flame until they are capable of doing so, supervising children when they're in the kitchen, never smoking in bed, using LED lights for holidays and other special occasions, turning off halogen lights (which easily overheat) when not in use, wearing close-fitting clothing when cooking, not keeping combustibles (like gasoline) inside your home, installing electrical fixtures correctly, or seeking the knowledge of someone who knows how to do so if you do not, and finally, using space heaters appropriately (three feet away from any flammable item, unplugging them when not in use and when you go to sleep).
- The holidays (both summer and winter) can present a variety of hazards. For example, you might be surprised to know that many structural fires every year are caused (indirectly) by Christmas trees. Likewise, birthday parties and fireworks celebrations can also pose unforeseen hazards. Make sure you take all necessary precautions to consider fire safety both in your everyday life and during celebrations. By being perhaps a little over-cautious, you can prevent all kinds of accidents and mitigate those that do happen.
- If you do end up in the terrible situation of having to escape a fire, make sure that you regularly check smoke detectors and have a plan, especially if you have children. There are many fire escape planning tools online that help with creating a layout of your home so that you can diagram the best escape routes. Walk through the house and point out different ways to exit, then discuss the manner in which to move through the house if there's smoke (low to the ground) and to beware of metal objects (doorknobs) that may have heated up enough to burn skin on contact.
Sometimes it can be almost impossible to put out a fire once it's started, which is why it's such a good idea to follow some strategies for prevention. Of course, even the best plans can be forgotten in the midst of a stressful situation. For that reason, it's important to ensure that you have homeowner's or tenant's insurance, and to review your policy to make sure you know what kinds of scenarios your insurance covers.
To find out how you can help those displaced by this fire, contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit RedCross.org.