Three out of five home fire deaths occur from results in properties without working smoke detectors,” said Gulfport Fire Chief James Marenkovic. October 7 through the 13 is Fire Prevention Week, a nationally recognized movement to educate the public about fire prevention and safety.
According to the National Fire Prevention Week website, the movement has been a national observance since 1925, under President Calvin Coolidge. The week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire, which took more than 250 lives in October of 1871.
Gulfport has seen three prominent structure fires since May 2018, including a house fire on Tangerine Avenue South on May, a duplex kitchen fire on on Gulfport Boulevard in August, and the recent Labor Day blaze at the Gulfport History Museum. While the fire at the Gulfport History Museum was an “intentionally set fire” according to the chief, the scale of the other two fires could have been prevented.
“Unattended kitchen fires are one of the most common causes of home fires,” said Chief Marenkovic. “And that’s what occurred in those little apartments there on Gulfport Boulevard.”
In instances where the kitchen fire involves grease, Marenkovic recommends the use a fire extinguisher or baking soda to douse the flames, or using a lid to cover the pot or pan.
“If it’s a grease fire, do not use water,” he said. “If you put water on a grease fire, it spreads it and makes it a larger fire.”
Other hidden fire-causing dangers are extension cords and multi-plug outlets.
“When the outlets are overloaded, that’s what’s going to cause fires,” he said.
Marekovic will make an appearance at Gulfport Elementary on Friday, October 12, to discuss fire safety with the pre-kindergarten students. Later in October, firefighters from the Gulfport Fire Department will make their yearly visit to Gulfport Elementary to do a show-and-tell with the fire trucks, suits and more.
To prevent home fires, Chief Marenkovic has a list of tips that he considers essential.
-Keep a fire extinguisher in your home. Preferably near the kitchen.
-Install home smoke detector by the sleeping areas and the bedrooms. Put smoke alarms on every level of the home.
-Test the detectors every month and make sure the batteries are changed at least once a year. Smoke alarms do not last forever and should be changed every 10 years.
-Have an escape plan for your home, with at least two ways out of your house. Make sure your windows and doors open easily. And make sure every member of your family knows the plan.
-Practice your EDITH drills. (EDITH stands for Exit Drills In The Home.)
-Once you’re out, stay out. Do not re-enter the home.