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Monday, January 21, 2013

Colder Weather Arrives - Are you Ready for Safety??

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930

Home Heating Fire Safety - Check your hotspots!

The National Weather Service is predicting an arctic blast of cold air to reduce temperatures below freezing for a majority of the day during the upcoming week.  It is no secret that firefighters fight more home fires in colder weather as compared to warm.  Typically, the cause of home fires during periods of cold weather are caused by residents trying to stay warm and kitchen fires.  Remember; Stay Informed, Stay Ready, Stay Safe.

The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department (PGFD) is joining the United States Fire Administration (USFA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to remind everyone that home fires are more prevalent in cold weather than in any other time of the year. This is due in part to an increase in cooking and heating fires.  Winter storms can interrupt electrical service and cause people to turn to alternative heating sources which also contribute to the increased risk of fire in winter.  This reminder involves the safe use of space heaters and general heating safety tips.

The USFA, NFPA and the PGFD want to remind everyone that fire safety and prevention are especially important during times of cold temperatures.  “Temperatures drop and fires increase,” said Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor.  According to NFPA statistics space heaters account for about one third of the home heating fires yet more than 80 percent of the home heating fire deaths. 

The Winter Residential Building Fires (PDF, 1Mb) report released by USFA in 2010, reports an estimated 108,400 winter residential building fires occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated average of 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries, and $1.7 billion in property loss.  

Cooking and heating are the top causes of fires during cold weather. 

“The winter season brings the highest number of home fires than any other time of year,” said Fire Chief Bashoor. “Each winter season, home fires increase in part due to cooking and heating fires. Fire safety and injury prevention must not be lost in an effort to stay warm. Stay warm and do so safely. Safety First ensures everyone goes home.” 

The men and women, career, civilian and volunteer, of the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department recommend the following safety tips for space heaters. 

Electric Space Heaters

• Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). 

• Check to make sure it has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over. 

• Heaters are not dryers or tables; don't dry clothes or store objects on top of your heater. 

• Space heaters need space; keep combustibles at least three feet away from each heater. 

• Always unplug your electric space heater when not in use. 

  Turn off at night or whenever you sleep.

General Heating Tips     
  • Furnaces, fireplaces and chimneys should be cleaned and checked each year by an appropriate professional prior to using.
  • Only use seasoned wood in fireplaces and never use ignitable liquids to start a fire.
  • The 3-foot rule also applies to furnaces and fireplaces.  No combustibles items within 3 feet of these heating appliances.
  • Dispose of fireplace ash into a metal container and store outdoors away from structures on a concrete surface.  Fireplace ash can ignite a fire days after they have been discarded.

Finally, having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. A working carbon monoxide (CO) detector will protect you and your family from deadly "silent killer" fumes that may be building up in your home.  Remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family. 

Residents of Prince George’s County can contact our "Safety First" smoke alarm program at 301-864-SAFE (7233).  A firefighter will install a working smoke alarm and/or a carbon monoxide detector in your home; free of charge. 

For additional information from the USFA and NFPA on Winter Fire Safety; click here.usfire.gov

Lewisdale Resident Dies after Escaping Home Fire - 24th Place

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930

A Lewisdale man and his wife escaped a fire in their home on Sunday evening seemingly uninjured by the smoke and heat filling their home.  The husband collapsed moments later as paramedics were tending to him.  Just after 10:00 pm, Sunday, January 20, firefighter/medics were alerted to a fire in the basement of a 2-story duplex in the 6600 block of 24th Place in the Lewisdale section of Hyattsville.

Firefighters arrived at the home with two occupants, a husband and wife, having escaped safely and were located in the front yard.  Firefighters stretched hose lines into the basement of the home to extinguish the fire as another firefighter checked on the couple.  The adult male was conscious and talking, however, was in obvious respiratory distress and complaining of chest pains.  A paramedic unit form the first due station, Chillum Fire/EMS Station #844, was already responding as part of the “working fire dispatch” and arrived to start treating the 65 year-old-male.  The man expressed concern for his pets, 3 dogs and 3 cats, still inside the house.

Firefighters found a relatively small fire in the basement which they quickly contained and extinguished.  Firefighters searched the house for the pets, quickly locating a dog and reunited the pet with the homeowners.   At that point paramedics were preparing the man for transport to a hospital when he suddenly suffered cardiac arrest.

Paramedics transported the man to a nearby hospital while performing advanced pre-hospital emergency care.   The man was pronounced deceased a short time after his arrival in the emergency room.

Two other dogs and two of the three cats were located in good condition.  County Animal Control officials will keep the five pets until the family is ready to claim them. 

The County Citizen Services Unit provided assistance to the wife with temporary housing arrangements.  The attached home was not affected by the fire and occupants were able to remain.

The fire investigation remains ongoing.  Fire loss is estimated at $10,000.  No firefighter or other civilian injuries were reported.  The identity of the deceased is being withheld to allow for family notification.  The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner – State of Maryland, will determine the cause of death.