2018-10-11 / Front Page

Open house

Fire station set to meet, greet residents Saturday
BY LANIA ROCHA
810-452-2652 • lrocha@mihomepaper.com

SWARTZ CREEK and CLAYTON TOWNSHIP – National Fire Prevention Week is upon us and local firefighters are taking the opportunity to urge residents to close their bedroom doors when they go to bed to increase their chances of surviving house fires.

“Michigan has seen a rise in fatal house fires the last couple of years,” said Swartz Creek Area Fire Department Lt. Robert Fitzpatrick. “The state fire marshal’s office is trying to figure out why.”

The U.S. Fire Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, says 87 fire-related deaths have been reported by media in Michigan so far in 2018.

That number compares to 79 for all of 2017. The data show an increase of slightly greater than 10 percent already, and the frequency of house fires is known to increase as the temperatures drop.

Noting that it’s the smoke, not the fire, that causes most fire-related fatalities, Fitzpatrick explained that some modern construction practices are contributing to the risk factor.

“Legacy (older) houses were built with regular timber, and filled with (natural fiber) furniture,” he said. “Now, they’re using more lightweight construction, synthetic woods, synthetic fibers – more plastics. So, essentially, we’re filling our houses with gasoline.”

The UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute advises that, 40 years ago, occupants of a home had about 17 minutes to escape in the event of fire. Now, that window of opportunity is three minutes.

Closed doors create barriers that increase that escape time exponentially.

“Closing the door is buying you an extra 15 minutes to escape,” Fitzpatrick said.

He added that he has viewed videos demonstrating the effects fire can have in rooms with doors closed versus opened, and they’re “astonishing.”

The FSRI reports that closing bedroom doors can lead to more survivable temperatures (100 degrees, as compared to 1,000 degrees in rooms with open doors), livable oxygen levels (18 percent, as compared to 8 percent), and less carbon monoxide (100 parts per million, versus

10,000 parts per million).

“It’s also important to make sure there is a working smoke detector in every room, especially with the doors closed,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s also very important to have a plan and practice it monthly.”

With cold weather settling in, he also urged residents to make sure their heating systems are in proper working order and to have their chimneys cleaned to get rid of the creosote that builds up and can ignite.

Residents using supplemental electrical heating units are reminded to keep them away from combustible household products such as furniture, curtains and cleaning supplies.

“We’ve been talking about these things for so long, but we’re still having issues,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’re still finding homes that don’t have smoke detectors.”

The American Red Cross will provide and install smoke detectors for families in need, he said.

The Swartz Creek Area Firefighters Association has been very proactive in promoting fire prevention and fire safety awareness. Fitzpatrick and other firefighters visit every elementary school every year and take the fire safety trailer to community events.

The Association, a group of SCAFD firefighters who volunteer their time to promote fire safety, raised the money to purchase the trailer which simulates a home fire.

“We take it everywhere we can,” said Fitzpatrick. “It creates a reallife scenario without the real-life dangers. The older kids have heard (the fire safety presentation) since they were in kindergarten. But as soon as they’re in there and they see the smoke, they forget what we just told them. That shows the importance of practice.”

The Swartz Creek Area Fire Department will host open houses from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at Station 1 on Civic Drive in Swartz Creek, and Station 2 on Seymour Road in Clayton Township.

Kids can check out the smoke house and other fire equipment, see Freddie the Fire Truck and Cappy the fire safety “dog,” and try on the firefighters’ protective gear. There will be hot dogs and fire safety materials available.

For more information on fire safety and prevention, visit Swartz Creek Firefighters Inc. on Facebook.

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