Alaska editorial: Predict & prevent

This editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

Firefighters statewide are worried. A “devastating pace” of fire-related deaths in 2012 has State Fire Marshal David Tyler urging all of us to control our fire safety and prevent fires.

In an announcement reporting the 10 Alaska fire deaths in the first four months of the year — more than twice last year’s rate and five times the rate by this time in 2010 — Tyler says “fires are predictable, preventable occurrences.” Although all the investigations are not complete, he said contributing factors to most of them have included alcohol abuse, unsafe smoking habits and smoke alarms that aren’t working.

As one who deals with the fires that aren’t prevented, and sees the death and destruction firsthand, a firefighter always looks for ways to help people keep themselves, their loved ones and their neighbors safe.

Tyler repeats advice that really can aid our fire safety:

• Equip our living spaces with working fire alarms, and test them at least once a month.

• Smoke cigarettes outside if at all.

• If anyone is going to smoke indoors, provide a deep-dish ashtray with a solid base; don’t set it on the arm of upholstered furniture; don’t dispose of cigarettes or ashtray contents before dousing them with water.

• Don’t smoke in bed, and don’t allow anyone else, even a guest or older relative, to do so.

• Take extra care if using alcohol or prescription drugs while smoking or cooking.

• Never leave cooking unattended.

He suggests, in addition to working smoke alarms, installing fire suppression sprinklers.

Besides taking responsibility for our own safety, Tyler urges Alaskans to look out for each other. “Fire safe behavior includes pointing out unsafe practices to others before a devastating fire occurs,” he says.

Keeping a fire from starting is the best way not to be hurt by fire. But just in case there is a fire, have an escape plan, and practice that plan, especially including even young children in the drills.

Let’s end the fire devastation now. Having started the year with that awful number of 10 fire-related deaths, let’s end with that same number. It’s 10 too many, but let’s keep it at that.

Be safe.


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