Many Livonia residents, myself included, are now getting tired of the cold weather, snow, dark skies and biting winds. These weather conditions are normal for those of us living in Michigan, and we need to keep our guard up as fire incidents peak during the cold weather months.
Recently, an Oregon family of three was hospitalized when responding firefighters found deadly levels of carbon monoxide inside their home. The homeowner called 9-1-1 to report that his daughter may have suffered a seizure and that his wife was feeling ill. The levels of carbon monoxide in the home were very high and rising. Once outside, the family told firefighters that they had just returned home from vacation and turned on their furnace to warm the house up. A maintenance issue sent the gas inside the home.
Carbon monoxide is a gas used to fuel appliances such as fireplaces, stoves, ovens and furnaces. As it builds up in the home, it cannot be detected by the normal family. In those instances, a carbon monoxide alarm can be the difference between life and death. In the above incident, the family may not have lived much longer had they not called 9-1-1. They had no carbon monoxide alarms in the home.
A space heater appears to be the cause of a late-night blaze in central Florida back in November. That fire started after the family had fallen asleep. The quick-moving fire killed five occupants who were unable to get out in time. Space heaters are intended to operate when a responsible adult is in the room and able to supervise the appliance. Space heaters should be shut off when leaving the room or going to bed at night. Space heaters also need a three-foot clearance where combustibles are not placed too close to the unit when it is operating.
A Virginia man had recently escaped his burning home after he was awakened by his working smoke alarms. Although he lost his belongings and furnishings, his life was saved by the activation of his home smoke alarm. Make sure you have plenty of working smoke alarms in your home. They give early warning of smoke, which can buy your family time during a fire. The fire in his home was started in the flue of the wood-burning stove, which had not been cleaned recently.
The fires that burn our property and our homes usually start off quite unintentionally and quite small in size. Prompt and proper actions may have gotten the families out safely and even extinguished the fire prior to the arrival of the fire department. But fires grow rapidly, and without smoke alarms, they do this when occupants are possibly asleep. We need to take the time to plan ahead on what we can do to be safer in our homes, how we intend to be alerted in case of an unwanted fire and the actions that we plan to take to get out when time is of the essence. Only then are we as prepared as we can be in case fire strikes.
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.