December 8, 2021

Fire Prevention Month

Chiefs remind residents to stay vigilant

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

Cortland fire Capt. Matt Van Heusen pulls an engine out of the Cortland Fire Station on Tuesday. October is Fire Prevention Month, and while firefighters say kitchen fires are the most common fire they see, the causes can get pretty creative.

Homer Fire Chief Mahlon Irish couldn’t remember when his department responded to the strangest fire he’s ever seen, but he can sure remember what it was.

A water tank caught fire east of the village of Homer, off Interstate 81. Specifically, a styrofoam portion of the large tank burned, sending large plumes of smoke into the air.

“When you get a report of a water tank on fire, you go like, ‘what!?’” he said. “That’s probably the weirdest thing you would hear over the radio.”

Irish hasn’t seen or responded to another fire like that since it happened somewhere between seven to nine years ago, but the most common fires, usually kitchen fires, he has.

October is Fire Prevention Month, and fire chiefs are reminding residents of the importance of fire safety and ways to prevent fires in their homes.

Safety tips

Fire chiefs gave these fire safety tips:

  • Check and test smoke detectors to make sure the battery isn’t dead.
  • Look at the manufacture date of your smoke detectors. If they are 10 years old or older, replace them.
  • Be aware of items near potential fire sources, especially combustible items in places like kitchens.
  • Have a fire extinguisher in your home, preferably in the kitchen.
  • If there is a fire or looks to be the risk of a fire, call 911.
  • Have an escape plan in the event of fire.

“We would rather be called and not needed than needed and not called,” Homer Fire Chief Maholon Irish said. “That’s why we’re here.”

Fire Prevention Week was started in 1922 by the National Fire Prevention Association and falls on whatever week Oct. 9 lies, Cortland Fire Chief Wayne Friedman said. Oct. 9 marks the date of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

This year’s theme is kitchen safety, the association announced. For the whole month, Cortland’s fire department has been posting information and web links on its Facebook page and trying to get information out regarding kitchen fires, which department data show accounted for most of fire response calls between 2006 and 2016, Friedman said.

Kitchen fires tend to happen when people get distracted with something else while food is cooking or forget it completely, Friedman said.

“It just seems to be the way some of these go,” Irish said.

While this is the most common type of fire through the year, each season has different fire hazards, including fires from heating sources in the winter and overheated electrical wiring during holidays.

Homer’s fire department posts fire prevention tips and links on its Facebook page, and Irish said the department is working out ways it can teach children fire safety that respects COVID social distancing guidelines.