In honor of October being Fire Prevention Month, Dale Way, Deputy Fire Chief of the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District (TMFPD), provided information on how the public can practice fire safety.
Since this year’s Fire Prevention theme is kitchen safety, TMFPD will focus on tips for preventing fires while cooking. However, Way added that there are other actions the community can do every day to avoid fires.
Anytime there is an open flame, the Deputy Fire Chief warned it could be dangerous. He emphasized that it’s crucial for people to be mindful of their actions, especially when dealing with everyday activities like lighting a candle, cooking or barbecuing.
“If you light a candle, pay attention,” he said. “Unfortunately, we get pretty lax as humans, especially…in our home. We become very lax because of our comfort with our surroundings.”
Way also advised against the use of fireworks, or any other kind of exploding target. He explained all fireworks are illegal and can be dangerous to the people lighting them and their surroundings.
“There’s a reason that [fireworks] are illegal,” he said. “Once you light it, it leaves your control. And you don’t know what the consequences are gonna be from that.”
In addition to avoiding behaviors that could start fires, Way stressed that “preparation is prevention.” This could include safety measures like having an extinguisher near your grill and outdoor fireplace.
Way said that creating and maintaining defensible space on a property is one of the most effective precautions a person can take. Homeowners can do this by “modifying, removing and disposing of non-fire-resistive vegetation” around their property.
This is important because if a wildfire approaches a structure with defensible space, it can slow the intensity and rate of the fire. This also allows firefighters to have an area where they can better suppress the incoming fire.
To encourage people to create this space, TMFPD will have Green Waste Collection days throughout October and November. On these days, the public can drop off tree branches, shrubs, and other natural vegetation to specified locations, and TMFPD will dispose of it safely.
Another way to be prepared is to have evacuation plans for when there is a home fire, or when a fire is approaching a home. He advised households to have an emergency plan and to know the surroundings well so they can have multiple evacuation routes.
He also emphasized the importance of having a 72-hour emergency kit. There is a possibility evacuation facilities will not be available immediately or that households will return to a home without working electricity or water after an evacuation. This kit ensures that households have provisions if either of these situations occur.
“We would love to tell everybody that if we tell you to evacuate, or you decide to evacuate, then we’re going to be able to let you in [to an evacuation center] 30 minutes from now,” Way said. “That’s not usually the case.”
It is also important to have these preparations so that a household can evacuate quickly and promptly. In a survey conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, researchers found that during the 2016 Chimney Tops 2 Fire in Tennessee, almost 80% of the surveyed residents did not evacuate until “the day the fire breached city limits.”
Way explained that evacuation can be advised, but it is ultimately up to the individual to decide when to leave.
“At the end of the day, we can order evacuations, but, obviously, our resources are not such that we’re going to forcibly take someone from their home,” he said. “So, evacuation becomes a very personal decision, and some people wait a lot longer than they should.”
He added that members of the community can sign up for Code Red. Those enrolled in the free service will receive notifications in the event of an emergency, including evacuation notices.
TMFPD also provides emergency updates and fire prevention tips on its website and social media.