It is a frightening, eye-opening message from which we urge our Cleveland and Bradley County hometown residents to take great heed.
Home fires, or any type of structural inferno, can strike anywhere with little and sometimes no forewarning.
Such blazes have impacted our community in years past and some have taken with them human life, just like in Connecticut.
The Long Island Sound tragedy and those in other communities have prompted the National Fire Protection Association to urge the public to take simple steps to protect their family and property from residential blazes.
In a news release dated Dec. 28, Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of communications, stressed such reminders are distributed regularly by the respected organization, but word of the Connecticut catastrophe has prompted yet another declaration.
“Recent fire deaths during this holiday season are tragic reminders that we are at the time of year when home fires peak,” the NFPA spokesperson explained. “Taking simple steps to prevent fires and making sure you have working smoke alarms can save lives.”
Certainly, house fires are not limited to the distracting Christmas and New Year’s holiday seasons, nor to the coldest winter months, but statistics show their numbers are highest during this period. Area residents are urged to take simple precautions year-round, but especially during the cold days, and nights, of mid-winter.
NFPA offers 10 suggestions for keeping families safe from fire this winter. Most are common-sense approaches involving little inconvenience to homeowners or renters. They include:
1. All heaters need space. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment such as a furnace, fireplace, wood stove or portable space heater.
2. Use a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
3. Never use your oven to heat your home.
4. Use a qualified professional to install stationary space-heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment, and have them adhere to all local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
5. Keep heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and have them inspected every year by a qualified professional.
6. Turn off portable heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
7. Always use the right kind of fuel, as specified by the manufacturer, for fuel-burning space heaters.
8. Assure that fireplaces have sturdy screens to prevent sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container with a lid. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
9. Assure that working smoke alarms are located on every level of your home, inside each bedroom and outside each sleeping area.
10. Develop and practice a home escape plan that includes two ways out of each room and an outside meeting place for all family members and residential occupants.
The lives of five precious loved ones — including three children — were lost forever in the Connecticut fire. For their surviving family members, it is a time of unimagined grief.
In memory of those who are lost, let each of us hear their message.
It is a cry of despondency, but a sage voice of prevention.