Snow, chimneys, stoves concern District 3 firefighters

When it comes to emergency preparedness this winter, Clallam County Fire District 3 wants you to look to the sky.

Fire Chief Steve Vogel said snow and cold weather can cause problems for fire/paramedic crews, limiting accessibility and slowing response time. He hopes neighbors will do the following during/after snowfall:

_ Clear driveways of snow and debris.

_ Make sure address placards and mailboxes are visible for address verification.

_ Clear the area around fire hydrants.

The last time Sequim had a Christmas tree fire was more 10 years ago. Vogel attributes this to annual education programs from the fire department and tree sellers about fire prevention.

"People in this community are a lot more educated than in other communities," he said, and more artificial trees made of nonflammable materials are being used, too.

However, trees indirectly have caused fires in Sequim homes because people push furniture too close to heaters to make room for the trees.

Stove top cooking

The most common fires in Sequim happen on the stove top.

"People get too occupied on the holidays and they get cooking and don't pay attention," Vogel said.

Vogel recommends the following actions for a stove top fire:

_ Keep an oven mitt and

lid nearby while cooking.

_ If a small grease fire happens, smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan. Turn off the burner. Leave the lid on until the pan is completely cool.

_ In an oven fire, turn the heat off and keep the door closed.

_ In a microwave oven, unplug the unit and keep the door closed until the fire is out.

_ After a fire, a microwave or oven should be serviced before further use.

_ When in doubt, just leave, closing the door behind you, and call 9-1-1.

No smoke for Santa

Washington state fire marshal Mike Matlick said heating equipment was involved in more than 1,300 structure fires in 2008, resulting in two fire deaths and nearly $6.9 million in property loss.

Vogel said chimney fires are less frequent here with better home insulation but they remain common.

One common misconception is how to handle a bird's nest in a chimney. Some think starting a fire is best, to burn it out, but the nest could ignite and spread flames onto a roof or lawn. Proper cleaning and screens will prevent this from happening.

Safe chimney/heater use:

_ Clean your chimney every three months.

_ Burn only dry firewood.

_ When starting your fireplace, burn it hot for 20 minutes before damping it down.

_ Keep closed glass doors or a wraparound metal screen in front of the fireplace opening to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out and unwanted materials from going in. Use a fireproof rug on the hearth.

_ Keep flammable materials away from your fireplace mantel/heater.

_ Always have proper room ventilation.

_ Use only fuel recommended by the heater manufacturer.

_ Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on each level of the home.

_ Install and maintain a carbon monoxide alarm in a central location outside each sleeping area.

Keep a light on - safely

It now is uncommon for candles to decorate a Christmas tree but still they account for house fires each year; nationally a home candle fire is reported about every half hour.

In Washington, there were 133 fires started by candles in 2008, causing $2.6 million in damages.

Candle tips

for any season:

_ Use sturdy metal, glass or ceramic holders that can't be knocked down easily.

_ Use candles only in rooms where there is a responsible adult.

_ Do not use candles in sleeping areas.

_ Keep candles away from combustibles.

_ Keep candles up high, out of reach of children.

_ Never leave burning candles unattended.

For more information on candle safety, visit the Office of the State Fire Marshal Web site at

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