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Fire safety drilled home: Experts offer tips for Fire Prevention Week


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When Mike Kutsko goes out on a call, it means bad things are happening.

“Either somebody’s sick, they’re hurt or they’re losing property,” said Kutsko, who is deputy chief of the Columbus Fire Department. “And we don’t want that.”

By educating the public, the CFD hopes to prevent fires before they start.

Today is the start of Fire Prevention Week, with the CFD planning to tour businesses and area schools. A public safety presentation is scheduled for Thursday at City Hall.

With an emphasis on preparation, the department suggests residents map out a plan and stick to it.

The CFD encourages family fire drills, and Sgt. Ron Sexton suggests making a game out of teaching fire safety to children.

“That’s what I do with my daughter,” he said. “Kids learn when they’re playing games. It makes it fun for them.”

Local firefighters say children aren’t the only ones needing lessons.

CFD firefighter Jeff Brown said he’s run into plenty of adults who don’t know how to properly use fire extinguishers.

“I think a lot of people buy them,” Brown said. “They have good intentions, and then they get shoved all the way back under the sink. They forget it’s there.”

The CFD extends an open invitation to local residents who want to learn how to use fire extinguishers. Once educated, they’re encouraged to practice with them.

“There are a lot of ways you can do a fire extinguisher wrong,” said Matt Noblitt, spokesman for the CFD. “If you use it once, you’ll never forget how to use it.”

Important preventive fire-protection steps include making and memorizing an emergency plan. It’s not easy, Noblitt acknowledges, but the basics are simple.

“You get out of the house,” he said. “You stay out. You go to your meeting place. And you stay at your meeting place.”

To stop a fire before it starts, Columbus residents are advised to understand common sources of blazes such as smoking, burning candles and curious children with access to lighters.

“More kids die in fires than they do by guns,” CFD Chief Dave Allmon said. “They’re making (lighters) look like toys. So you have to talk to your kids.”

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, the three leading causes of fire are cooking, heating equipment and arson, in that order. Meanwhile, the top three sources of fires involving fatalities are smoking, arson and heating equipment, respectively.

“What usually kills you is the smoke and that carbon monoxide,” Allmon said. “Because when you burn anything, it puts off carbon monoxide.

“A lot of people think that smoke or that fire is going to wake them up — no. That’s why it’s so important to have smoke alarms.”

The CFD suggests two fire alarms at every level of a residence. It’s a good idea to have the devices in bedrooms, too, firefighter Bryan Bailey said.

“By involving the community and educating the public, we can reduce losses,” Kutsko said.

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