File photo of London firefighters responding to a working fire. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

Identifying hazards the focus of Fire Prevention Week

A tea towel hanging near the stove or a space heater a tad too close to the curtains may seem inconsequential, but both could result in a devastating fire.

London fire officials say these sort of potential fire hazards exist throughout the home and they are reminding residents during Fire Prevention Week, which began Sunday, to be vigilant about eliminating them from their households.

“We want people to look for fire hazards in their home, like electrical cords that may be over extended and too many plugged into a receptacle. By identifying the hazards you can get rid of them before they become even more of a danger,” said Deputy Fire Chief Jack Burt. “We want people to listen for the smoke alarm and make sure they react when they hear that smoke alarm and get out of their house. We also want them to learn two ways out of their house, so that when the smoke alarm sounds everybody can get out safely.”

Firefighters will be taking their “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware, fire can happen anywhere” fire prevention week message to area shopping malls, grocery stores, and schools. Throughout the week they will dispense safety tips aimed at protecting Londoners from fire.

The most common cause of house fires in the city is unattended or distracted cooking, noted Burt.

“We want to make sure people look while they cook, they stand by their pan, they watch what they heat, they be still by the grill,” said Burt. “Cooking fires when you’re distracted can happen very quickly and they can cause a lot of damage.”

It’s recommended when cooking to keep a lid large enough for the pot being used nearby so if a fire does start the flames can easily be smothered by sliding the lid on top. If you need to leave before the meal is cooked, turn the burner off and move the pot or pan from the hot burner.

Smokers are advised to limit the activity to when they are outdoors. But for those who choose to lit up inside, Burt recommends using a deep ashtray that can hold the cigarette butts and to always make sure the cigarette is fully extinguished before leaving it unattended.

Careless smoking in the leading cause of fatal fires in London and across Ontario. Out of the last five fire deaths in London, four were the result of careless smoking and contraband cigarettes. In April, a London man suffered extensive third-degree burns after a blaze attributed to careless smoking at a multi-unit house on Princess Ave.

Every home is required to have a working smoke alarm on every storey, and near sleeping areas.

Fire Prevention Week runs through October 13. A list of scheduled activities can be found by clicking here.