Recent Fire Fatalities in Kansas City are Reminder on Heating Appliances and Smoke Detectors

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With October leading the rest of the year in home fires, it’s no surprise that National Fire Prevention Week falls in this month. One of the main reasons: this is the month it turns cold in much of the US, and many people start using their portable heating appliances. An article from Kansas City, Kansas reporting on recent fire fatalities also had some timely advice on what can cause home fires – and how to prevent anyone getting hurt, or worse.

October typically marks the beginning of increased home fires and fire deaths, but so much, so tragic, so soon? Yahir Ramos, a 3-year-old boy, a little ball of energy, caught by fumes and flames in Kansas City, Kan. In Overland Park, 8-year-old Taylor Jackson, staying for a sleepover, never roused from a smothering blanket of smoke.

More Detail on the Tragedies

In the Overland Park fire, a smoke alarm had been disconnected a week ago because of work at the duplex. The cause and origin of the fire was being investigated. What is known is that the 7-year-old girl who lived there had asked Taylor Jackson, her best friend, to come for a sleepover. “This is way outside what we normally see,” said Jason Rhodes, media manager with the Overland Park Fire Department. The typical fire fatality is an elderly woman who smokes, not a child.

Fire Department Checks Smoke Detectors

Taylor was the first fire fatality in Overland Park this year. Five people, including Yahir, have died this year in Kansas City, Kan., fires. On Monday, the Overland Park Fire Department reached out to the neighbors near the burned-out duplex. In teams of two, firefighters went door-to-door asking neighbors if they’d like to have their smoke detector checked or if they’d like a new one installed. “I’m thrilled you’re here,” said Sheila Wondrack. “I don’t think it works anymore.”  Rhodes said every home should have a fire alarm in every sleeping location and on every floor. “About all we can do is push hard for people to install and check fire alarms,” he said.

Heating Appliances Cause Fires

The uptick of fires in October coincides with colder weather, which fire experts say prompts many residents to start using — and misusing — their furnaces, fireplaces and space heaters. A space heater sparked a blaze early Monday in the 4800 block of East 55th Street that injured two men and caused $80,000 in damage, said Kansas City Fire Department spokesman Joe Vitale. One victim suffered burns; the other smoke inhalation. Both were expected to survive.

What You Can Do

Vitale said residents should have their heating sources checked by professionals every year to ensure they are working correctly. Residents should also keep blankets, clothing, and paper— anything combustible — away from heat-producing elements. Candles can also pose problems and seem to be more popular in the colder months, Vitale said. Space heaters and candles should be turned off or out when residents leave the room, Vitale said. He said space heaters are more prone to causing problems when people use them as a primary source of heat. They were intended as a secondary source, he said.

More Sobering Statistics

According to a new report by the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), roughly two-thirds of home fire deaths (2005-2009) resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms. The report, “Smoke Alarms in U.S Home Fires” is available for free on NFPA’s website. The report examines the number of reported fires in U.S. households with and without working smoke alarms, as well as the effectiveness of smoke alarms in preventing fire-related deaths. “Working smoke alarms are essential in saving lives from fire,” says Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s Vice President of Communications. “We know you can have as little as three minutes to get out if you have a fire before it becomes deadly. The early warning provided by smoke alarms gives you extra time to escape.”

Most reputable alarm companies (FrontPoint included) recommend at least one monitored smoke and heat sensor for every system they sell. The main reason is that your standard smoke detector is really just a noisemaker. Yes, it’s much better than nothing, and it probably would have helped in the story above – but don’t you want to know the fire department is being summoned as soon as possible? You may be away – or, much worse, overcome by smoke in your own home. That’s when you definitely want a system that quickly reaches the people who can help. Here’s a link to my previous post on monitored fire protection.

FrontPoint continues to provide the latest in interactive, wireless home security, including fire monitoring for no additional monthly fee. We are members of the NFPA, and fully support their goal of protecting us in our homes and workplaces – especially with this year’s theme: “Protect Your Family from Fire.” Just one more reason why are known as the #1 ranked alarm company in the US.

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