Oswego County Public Information Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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Feb. 14, 2007


Three structural fires have destroyed buildings in Oswego County since Tuesday afternoon, and Oswego County officials are worried that the cold temperatures will continue to cause fires during the severe winter weather that Oswego County is experiencing.

"Because of the cold, people are trying to max out their heating source," said Al Heath, Deputy Fire Coordinator for Special Operations. "If they don't take safety precautions, these heating sources will turn to fires."

During this winter storm, Heath reminds county residents to keep their house numbers visible to make it easier for emergency responders to locate. Heath also asks that anyone living near a fire hydrant take the extra time to remove snow around the hydrant.

"Fires can cause a great deal of harm and loss, but most fires can be prevented," said Oswego County Fire Coordinator John Hinds. "Nationwide, more than 4,000 Americans die each year in fires and more than 25,000 are injured. An overwhelming number of fires are in the home."

Especially for wood stoves, other alternate sources of heat, and electrical appliances, Hinds urged people to follow the manufacturer's recommendations. He also added, "One of the most common causes of fires is improper clearance to combustibles."

Hinds encouraged local residents to follow fire safety and prevention tips from the U.S. Fire Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

  • Use alternate sources of heat properly.

    • Portable heaters need space. Keep anything combustible at least three feet away. Plug heaters directly into the wall socket and unplug them when not in use.

    • Keep fire in the fireplace. Use fire screens and have your chimney cleaned annually. The creosote buildup can ignite a chimney fire that could easily spread.

    • Wood stoves cause over 9,000 residential fires annually. Carefully follow the manufacturer's installation and maintenance instructions. Use only seasoned wood for fuel, not green wood, artificial logs or trash. Inspect and clean your pipes and chimneys regularly and check often for damage or obstructions.

    • Kerosene heaters should be used only where approved by authorities. Never use gasoline or camp stove fuel. Refuel outside and only after the heater has cooled. Use the heater in a well ventilated room.

  • Every home should have at least one working smoke alarm. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home. Test it monthly, keep it free of dust and replace the batteries at least once a year. Replace the detector itself after 10 years.

  • Teach children to be safe. Children under five are naturally curious about fire. Many play with matches and lighters. Tragically, children set over 20,000 fires every year. Teach your children that fire is a tool, not a toy, and keep lighters and matches locked up and out of their reach.

  • Prevent electrical fires. Never overload circuits or extension cords. Do not place cords and wires under rugs, over nails or in high traffic areas. Immediately shut off and unplug appliances that sputter, spark or emit an unusual smell. Have them professionally repaired or replaced.

  • Use appliances wisely. Follow the manufacturer's safety precautions. Overheating, unusual smells, shorts and sparks are all warning signs that appliances need to be shut off, then repaired or replaced. Unplug appliances when not in use. Use safety caps to cover all unused outlets, especially if there are small children at home.

  • Follow safe cooking practices. Keep items away from the stove that could catch fire, such as towels, clothing and curtains, and plastic. Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and get training from the fire department to learn how to use it.

Hinds also offered advice on what to do if you are caught in a residential fire:

  • Plan your escape routes. Determine at least two ways to escape from every room of your home. If you must use an escape ladder, be sure everyone knows how to use it.

  • Select a location outside your home where everyone would meet after escaping. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year.

  • Once you are out, stay out! Call the fire department from a neighbor's home.

  • If you see smoke in your first escape route, use your second way out. If you must exit through smoke, crawl low under the smoke to escape.

  • If you are escaping through a closed door, feel the door before opening it. If it is hot, use your second way out.

  • If smoke, heat, or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with the door closed. Signal for help using a bright-colored cloth at the window. If there is a telephone in the room, call the fire department and tell them where you are.

"The best way to protect your home from a fire is to prevent one," said Hinds. "We are doing our best to keep everyone safe during the state of emergency, with everyone's help, that goal can be reached."

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