BUCKHANNON – Members of the Buckhannon Fire Department are busy every day, answering nearly 120 calls of service per month for a total of between 1,200 to 1,400 calls of service per year.
And with October being National Fire Prevention Month, Buckhannon Fire Chief J.B. Kimble wants to remind everyone to be smart about fire safety.
“Every year in October we visit every elementary school in our district,” Kimble said. “That accounts for roughly 1,000 students. We go to the CDC (Child Development Center) Kids R Kids, daycares and the pre-schools and we talk with them about fire safety.”
Kimble said most of the younger children are only interested in seeing the fire trucks.
“But we talk to them about fire safety – Stop! Drop! And roll!” he said.
He said the older elementary students learn about what it takes to create fire, what to do when there is smoke, keeping low to the ground and when to call 911.
“Basically going into the schools allows us to meet with the kids and have a face-to-face contact,” Kimble said. “This helps them become familiar with firemen so they are not afraid, which is a big thing. During a fire or other emergency, we don’t want children to be afraid and hide from us, because it makes it harder for us to find them if they are a bad situation.”
Kimble said during their visits to the classrooms, they sometimes pull the teacher aside while talking and have the teacher put on the turnout gear – what firefighters wear to the scene of a fire. He said, when the teacher walks into the classroom, completely dressed in the turnout gear and pops out of the uniform, they see a familiar face and it helps them be less afraid.
“With our gear, we sometimes look like Darth Vader,” Kimble said. “It helps them realize it is still someone friendly they know on the inside. It helps promote the knowledge that a fireman is your friend.”
During the October visits, Kimble said the students can get into and onto the fire trucks. He said they talk with the older students about how the trucks pump water, how many calls the department makes per year and other fire safety information.
“We also talk to classes about different fire aspects,” Kimble said. “At the middle school, we talk about the science of fire. It just depends on the age of the group.”
In October, Buckhannon firefighters also visit with the folks at the Upshur County Senior Center.
“We remind them about changing the batteries in their smoke detectors and help remind them not to wear loose clothing while cooking because they can accidently catch fire,” Kimble said.
As the weather is cooling down and we approach the Holiday season, Kimble shared some home fire prevention tips.
“It’s not really cold enough to turn on the furnaces or throw wood into the wood burner, so lots of people depend on space heaters,” Kimble said. “Space heaters are a good thing if you keep an eye on them. The newer ones shut themselves off if they are [knocked over] but older ones need to be attended to be safe.”
According to Kimble, some of the older space heaters are dangerous because of faulty or damaged wiring or because people use extension cords with them. He said cheap extension cords are not designed to carry the load from space heaters or Christmas lights.
“I always tell people if they are going to use a space heater to stay in the room and check on it on a regular basis,” he said. “It’s also a good time to have your furnace and chimneys checked for safety.”
Holidays can account for more cooking and baking and Kimble said to remember when a grease fire starts, it is best to smother the fire with a lid or baking soda. To leave the pan on the stove risks splashing hot grease on the floor or on yourself, causing a bad burn. Doing so could even spark a secondary fire.
“Know at what point it is time to leave,” Kimble said. “The best thing to do when you get to that point is get out of the home and call 911.”
Kimble said right now, the Buckhannon Fire Department is having issues with outdoor burning.
“People need to know fire season is right now and they can only burn after 5 p.m. and the fire must be out by 7 a.m. the following morning,” he said. “They must be with the fire the entire time it is burning.”
“In the Buckhannon City limits, residents must obtain a burning permit,” the chief added. “If you are going to burn a pit fire for cooking, you must call the fire house and we come and inspect it for safety and proximity to neighbors. The biggest thing is to call us first.”
National Fire Prevention Week and Month started in 1922 when the National Fire Prevention Association named the second week in October as Fire Prevention Week in commemoration of the 1871 Great Chicago Fire.
According to the NFPA, in 2016 there were 352,000 home fires and 3 out of 5 fire deaths occurred in homes without smoke alarms. The association reported that carbon monoxide is the no. 1 cause of accidental deaths and said that less than 50 percent of U.S. homeowners have a fire escape plan.
In Upshur County, there are seven fire departments including Buckhannon, Adrian, Ellamore, Banks District, Washington District, Warren and Selbyville.