Saturday, January 6, 2018

Fireplace Safety 101

When is the last time you had your chimney inspected? Fireplaces can add extra heat in the winter, but if they're not properly maintained, they can also become a hazard.
The purpose of a chimney is to carry hazardous gases and smoke out of your home. If chimneys are not cleaned regularly, residue called creosote can build up inside your chimney and catch fire. When you clean your chimney and have it inspected periodically, you help ensure there is a clear pathway for gasses and heat to escape.
If you're planning on curling up in front of your fireplace this winter, keep the following tips in mind to help prevent chimney fires some quick tips:
  • Have your chimney inspected and cleaned at least once a year by a chimney professional. A chimney professional will make sure your chimney is structurally sound and will remove creosote buildup and any other debris (such as animal nests).
  • Only burn dried-out wood - cardboard, trash, or other objects can burn very quickly and the flames can get out of control. Never dispose of a Christmas tree in your fireplace. Like ever. 
  • Never (ever) use flammable liquids! You're not lighting the grill. No charcoal, no lighter fluid, no kerosene, no gasoline. 
  • Keep your fireplace doors opened or cracked when burning a fire, as restricted air supply can cause creosote buildup.
  • Stay on the lookout for signs of chimney fires. Indications of chimney fires include dense smoke and a loud rumbling noise (often compared to a freight train). If you think you have a chimney fire, get everyone safely out of your home and call 911. Never attempt to fight the fire yourself. 
  • It is important to note that some chimney fires are slow-burning and may not make loud noises or have lots of smoke. These can cause damage to your home as well and weaken the structure of your chimney.
  • Important: COOL your ashes and then CAN your ashes. Embers from fires can retain heat and reignite for days after the original fire
  • Make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are WORKING. We're not kidding when we say that carbon monoxide is the "silent killer"and you MUST keep those carbon monoxide detectors in good shape.  
  • Working smoke alarms? We know - you're too smart not to have them in your home and that you test them as often as you check your phone.
  • Chimney fires often lead to house fires. It's important to follow safe fire-burning practices and keep regular maintenance on your chimney.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Need Help With Your MCFRS Firefighter Application?

The Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service (MCFRS) is hiring and accepting applications for the position of Firefighter/Rescuer I (Recruit) through January 6, 2018 at midnight. 

This recruitment will be used to establish eligibility for a Recruit Class that will tentatively begin in September or October, 2018. Applications will only be accepted on-line. MCFRS Firefighter/Rescuers receive outstanding benefits, including a 20-year retirement with no age limit, group health and life insurance, tuition assistance, pay differentials, paid holidays, paid vacation, and paid sick leave.

If you have applied for the position of Firefighter/Rescuer I (Recruit) previously, you MUST reapply to be considered.

Have questions? We can help!

1.  How do I create my Account? Can you give me step-by-step instructions?
Yes! Click hereLink

2. I created my account, but still can’t apply.  What should I do?
Make sure that you have waited at least 30 minutes after creating your account to apply.  Make sure that you are logged in when trying to apply.  Follow these instructions:
  1.  Log into your account
  2. Click on the word "employment"
  3. On the search panel, highlight "public safety"
  4. Hit go.
  5. Find the position. (IRC28202)
  6. Click on the vacancy number (IRC28202)
  7. Scroll all the way to the right.
  8. Click on the "apply" button

3. I applied, but didn’t get a confirmation email.  How can I check my status?
  1. Log into your account
  2. Click on the vacancy number (IRC28202)
  3. You should be able to see your status. It should say “active application.”
  4. If yes, you have successfully applied and no additional information is needed.
  5. If no, please make sure that you applied for the position and clicked on the “submit” button.
  6. If you continue to have problems, contact:
4. I received an error message when I tried to input an employee as my referral source.
How can I fix this?

1. Send an email to
2. Include the following information:
    a. Your Last name and Your First name
    b. The name of the employee that referred you to the job announcement 
        (only 1 person can be listed). Include Last Name and First Name
    c. Your Information will be updated within 1-2 business days.
    d. An email confirmation will be sent to you as a confirmation of the change.

5. Do I need a resume?
A resume is not required for this position so you do not need to upload one. If this document is needed later in the application process, you will be provided with specific instructions on how to upload.

6.  I forgot something on my application. Can I make an edit?
Unfortunately, you cannot edit your application once it is submitted. If you need to have your application updated with your college credits, you must send an official transcript from your university before the closing date to the contacts listed at the bottom of this page. Once received and verified that you have 30 or more credits, your application will be updated. Again, an official transcript from your university MUST be received BEFORE the application period closes. 

7. I can't make any of the dates for the entrance exam. What do I do?

There are no alternate dates for the entrance exam.

8. Any special order when inputting my name?

Your name must be last name then first name.

9. I need HELP!!!
We understand and are here to help you. For any OHR and computer access (registration and Job Vacancy Portal) concerns contact: Jacquelyn Anderson Montgomery County Government OHR (Office of Human Resourses) at:

For any Fire and Rescue, hiring press release and job description related questions please contact: Captain O’Neal Johnson Jr. Montgomery County MD Fire & Rescue Service Recruiting Manager at: or via cell at 240-454-1533. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Updates to Maryland’s Smoke Alarm Law

New Year. New Alarm? What You Need to Know 

Smoke alarm technology has advanced over the years and the updates to Maryland's Smoke Alarm Law are part of a nationwide trend to ensure that new and replacement smoke alarms have the most effective technology available. In Maryland, legislation updating smoke alarm requirements was signed in 2013 with a phased-in implementation period to provide time for residents impacted to make any required upgrades and be in compliance by the January 1, 2018 deadline. There are essentially two key things you need to know about the new law to determine if you need to take action: 

  • All smoke alarms, regardless of whether they are battery-only or hard-wired, MUST be replaced EVERY ten years from the date of manufacturer printed on the back of the alarm.  
  • All battery-ONLY smoke alarms must be replaced with ten-year, sealed, long-life battery-powered smoke alarms with a silence/hush feature. These battery-only smoke alarms are the primary target of Maryland's new law and are the type of alarms typically found in older (pre-1975) homes.

The intent of Maryland’s new Smoke Alarm Law was to achieve as much reliable smoke alarm coverage as possible in older dwellings without requiring the homeowner to run new wiring. As a department, we have been talking about changes to Maryland’s Smoke Alarm Law since the legislation was signed in 2013 and as we approach 2018, we’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions below. Questions like: Is it really necessary?  Why every ten years?  Why a sealed battery?  How much will it cost me? What if I have hard-wired alarms? Why the changes? Let’s learn the reasons for these legislative changes.

Six years ago the Maryland Smoke Alarm Technology Task Force examined residential fire deaths around the State to learn why people were not able to escape their homes in time.  The Task Force was asked to look at new and emerging technologies to determine if better smoke detection was available and ensure it was affordable for Marylanders. The goal of the Task Force was simple:  Reduce residential fire deaths in Maryland. The legislation was written to do exactly that.  


How do I know if I am affected by the changes to Maryland’s Smoke Alarm Law?
Two things you need to know. Maryland’s new Smoke Alarm Law requires the replacement of all smoke alarms (hard-wired and battery-only) when they are ten years old (ten years from the date of manufacture printed on the back of the smoke alarm) and requires the replacement of any/all battery-only powered smoke alarms with 10-year long-life, sealed smoke alarms. It is never acceptable to replace required hard-wired smoke alarms and replace with ANY type of battery-only smoke alarm. 

How do I know what type of smoke alarms I need?
Smoke alarm requirements are based on the Code requirements when the house was built. As a result, requirements can be somewhat confusing and it is critical to determine when your home was actually built to determine the locations and type of smoke alarms required. Residential code requirements can be found at

Are hard-wired smoke alarms affected by the changes to Maryland’s Smoke Alarm law?

The only impact to hard-wired smoke alarms: if they are over 10 years, they need to be replaced with new hard-wired smoke alarms. The manufacture date can be found on the alarm to determine if it needs to be replaced. Hard-wired smoke alarms always have a battery-backup in the event of a power outage to ensure continuous smoke alarm protection.

Why do I have to change my smoke alarms every ten years?
How old is your cell phone? It is likely less than ten years old. Then why should your smoke alarm, an electronic device designed to protect your family not be periodically replaced? Most people know they should have working smoke alarms. The one thing many people don’t realize is that smoke alarms need to be replaced every ten years. Studies concluded that the proper operational sensitivity of a smoke alarm deteriorates dramatically ten years from its date of manufacture. You can find the manufacturer date on the underside of your smoke alarm. No date? No question --- your smoke alarms are overdue for replacement.

Can I replace my required hard-wired smoke alarms with these new 10-year, sealed battery-only smoke alarms?
NO! (no, no and no)! The new law heavily emphasizes the use of sealed, 10-year battery-powered smoke alarms with long-life batteries and silence/hush features. However, it is critical to understand that these devices are appropriate only where battery-operated smoke alarms presently exist or in locations where no smoke alarms are present. It is never (ever) acceptable to remove required hard-wired smoke alarms and replace them with any type of battery-only smoke alarm.  
Why a “sealed battery” in battery-only alarms?
When looking at the data on residential fire fatalities, more than half of the smoke alarms failed to sound because the 9v battery had been removed. The primary intent of the new Maryland Smoke Alarm Law was to transition away from smoke alarms with nine-volt batteries. Historically, the normal course of action when frying bacon or burning toast activated the smoke alarm was to remove the battery to quiet the alarm. That annoying low battery alarm chip which almost always occurs at 3:00 in the morning also resulted in the removal of the smoke alarm battery. Despite the best intentions, many of these batteries never got replaced resulting in much loss of life fires in homes having non-working smoke alarms due to dead or missing batteries. Both of these problems will be essentially solved as we transition to sealed smoke alarms. The silence button will temporarily turn off the alarm due to cooking activations (we are not saying you're a bad cook ...) and the alarm will reset after a few minutes. A low battery chirp will only occur once every ten years with the new generation of sealed units indicating it’s time to replace the entire smoke alarm unit. Battery technology has come a long way and this “sealed battery” technology is a good thing.

How much will it cost me?
More good news. While the new sealed smoke alarms with long-life batteries and hush features will cost a little more at the time of purchase, money is actually saved over the ten-year life of the alarms since there is no longer a need to purchase new nine-volt batteries ever year. If you have hard-wired smoke alarms you might need an electrician to change them out.  The device itself costs around $30.00. Small price to pay for your family’s safety. 

Can I purchase a hard-wired smoke alarm with a ten-year battery back-up?
Yes.  When the legislation was written they were not available on the market but they are now. Again, they are potentially a less expensive alternative since you won’t have to continue to buy 9 volt batteries each year and while the law doesn’t require ten-year back-up batteries for hard-wired smoke alarms, it could be a good solution to the “low battery replacement chirp” that always seems to occur in the middle of the night.

Why is the “hush” feature important?
Smoke alarms are available with a “hush” button that can be used to temporarily silence the alarm. This is a convenient way to deal with nuisance alarms, such as those caused by burning toast or opening smoky ovens, without disabling the alarm. The hush button will silence the alarm for several minutes and then automatically reset itself. Smoke alarms with this feature discourage the dangerous practice of removing the battery or disconnecting the power source as a method of dealing with frequent nuisance alarms. If smoke continues to build from an actual fire while the alarm is in hush mode, the smoke will override the silence feature and the smoke alarm will reactivate.
How can I test my alarm? 
Every smoke alarm comes with a test button. MCFRS recommends that people test their alarms at least once a month. Think about it. You go out of town for a month and “missed” the end of life chirp of your smoke alarm during that time and have no idea that your alarm is no longer protecting your family. A monthly push of the test button could just save your life. 

What about new homes. Any changes?
For new construction, the Maryland Smoke Alarm Law has simply been updated to correspond with the International Residential Code and NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. An AC powered, battery back-up smoke alarm is required in every bedroom, in the common area outside of bedrooms and on every level of the home (including finished or unfinished basements) with ALL of the required smoke alarms being interconnected. 

What if I rent?
The new law is applicable to homeowners and landlords. Every property management company in Maryland and all landlords need to be fully compliant with the requirements of the new law.

What if I can't afford a smoke alarm?

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service has a small inventory of 10-year, long life, battery-powered smoke alarms reserved for senior citizens and residents that are unable to purchase or safely install smoke alarms due to mobility, vision or hearing impairments or other disabilities. Residents can call 311 to learn more about this program.

Can I just stop by or call my local fire station for help or information about smoke alarms?

The department recommends that you contact 311 or visit our website for assistance. While MCFRS firefighters would like to meet you -- they are frequently out of the station dispatched on calls, transporting patients, engaged in training exercises and education classes. There is a team of fire safety educators who can quickly assist you that can be reached by calling 311 or visiting our website.

Does MCFRS install or replace hard-wired smoke alarms in my home?

No. MCFRS does not install or replace hard-wired smoke alarms. If your smoke alarms are hard-wired into your home's electrical system, an electrician is recommended to complete any installation or replacement of hard-wired smoke alarms. Remember, if the Code requires hard-wired smoke alarms, you must replace with hard-wired smoke alarms which come with a battery back-up to provide continuous coverage in the event of a power outage.  

Is there anything new I need to know if I am selling my house? 
The residential property disclosure form provided to the purchaser of specified single-family residential real property must include whether the smoke alarms (1) are over 10 years old and (2) if battery-operated, are sealed, tamper-resistant units incorporating a silence/hush button and use long-life batteries as required in all Maryland homes by 2018. 
Residential Sprinkler Systems
Nothing in the new law is intended to imply in any way that smoke alarms are an adequate or acceptable substitute for residential sprinkler protection. The combination of properly located and functioning smoke alarms and properly designed residential sprinkler protection systems provide the greatest potential for surviving any residential fire.
How do I dispose of my old alarms?
The radioactive material in smoke alarms is extremely weak. Smoke alarms can be safely disposed of in the regular trash. Some manufacturers will take their own products back, but will not take products made by other companies. The postage is at the consumer's expense. Additionally, the County's Transfer Station on Shady Grove Road is also a great place to dispose of your alarms.

I still see smoke alarms with removable batteries (9v) on the shelves of retailers. Is this illegal?
No. While we hope that retailers will transition their inventory over to selling only 10-year sealed long-life battery smoke alarms, there is nothing in Maryland's law that requires retailers to stop offering smoke alarms with removable batteries since these alarms can be used as auxiliary or supplemental smoke alarms locations not required by Code.
What if I need help or have questions? 
Please visit us at or call 311 for assistance.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tis the season to be … SAFE! Deck the halls with boughs of Safety

In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it may be tempting to take a few short cuts. Fire Chief Scott Goldstein asks that you make sure that safety isn’t one of them!   

Christmas trees require special attention. When selecting a tree, freshness is important. Check the needles to make sure they are green and difficult to pull back from the branches. If the tree has been freshly cut, the needles should not break. Tap the tree on the ground several times and notice if any needles fall off. If they do, the tree is probably dried out and could be a fire hazard.  Water your tree daily and do not place the tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace, radiator, space heater or heat vent. Make sure your tree is in a sturdy holder and can't be knocked over by pets or children.

Using extension cords? Overloaded extension cords and outlets can present a serious fire safety hazard. Make sure that the extension cord is suitable for the electrical “load” needed. Do not place cords under furniture or rugs and never plug two extension cords together to increase the total length. Demanding too much power from an extension cord risks overheating and fire. Be sure to read all packaging and instructions carefully when purchasing an extension cord and ensure it is UL listed.

Holiday lights. Indoors or out, only use lights that have been tested by an approved testing laboratory for safety such as UL. All lights should be inspected for frayed wires, bare spots, broken or cracked sockets or excessive wear before plugging them in and discard any damaged sets of lights. Avoid stringing more than three light 
strands together.

Firing up the fireplace?
 Cool your ashes! Every year “cold” ashes result in house fires. Treat all ashes and coals as HOT ashes, even when you think they have had enough time to cool. Your garage, house or deck are unsafe locations for ashes to cool and have been the site of many recent and devastating fires both locally and nationally. Take extreme care when disposing ashes and follow these tips: 

-          Allow all ashes to cool in place for several days, when possible.
-         When it’s time to dispose of ashes, transfer them to a metal container and wet them down. Only use an approved metal ash bucket that has a tight fitting metal lid.
-         Store the container outside, away from structures, decks, fences, wood piles or other combustible materials.
-          Never use a vacuum cleaner to pick up ashes and don’t dispose of ashes outside on a windy day. The wind can whip up what may have seemed like cool embers, making them fiery hot, and igniting nearby combustibles.

Candle fires peak during the holiday season. Most holiday candle fires occur when people leave burning candles unattended or place candles too close to holiday decorations. Keep candles in sight, in a secure holder and on a safe surface away from children and pets. Consider using flameless, battery-operated candles making them much safer.

Give space heaters space and ensure at least a 3-foot clearance from anything that can burn. Do not overload the electrical circuit or use extension cords with space heaters. Always stay in the room while a space heater is operating and turn it off when leaving the room or going to sleep. Follow all manufacturer recommendations and make sure your space heater meets all safety standards.

Cooking is a top cause of holiday fires. Be alert, focused and stay in the kitchen when cooking. Keep things that can catch fire, such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers and towels away from the cooking area. Make sure kids and pets stay at least three feet away from the stove and oven, hot food, and liquids to avoid serious burns.

Disposing of your tree –
never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by having the County’s recycling service pick it up on the designated day(s).

Do you hear what I hear? Having working smoke alarms DOUBLE your chances of surviving a fire however smoke alarms do not last forever. If your alarms are 10 years old or older, they need to be replaced with new alarms.  Bottom line: don't wait for a fire to test your smoke alarm. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving Wins FIRST Place - For Most Cooking Fires!

More cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein is urging residents to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and to keep safety at the top of everyone’s “to do” list this holiday season. “Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a rookie cooking your first holiday feast, the strategies for serving up a safe meal are the same,” said Chief Goldstein. “Unattended cooking is the leading cause of residential fires and we’re asking residents to follow these simple safety tips and to have a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday.

Cooking Safety Tips:

  • Be alert! Stay in the kitchen when using the stovetop and use a timer. If you must leave the kitchen, even for a minute, turn off the stove.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire at least 3 feet from the stove, toaster oven or other heat source. This includes pot holders, food packaging, dish towels, paper/plastic bags, etc.
  • Do not pour water on a grease fire. Pouring water on a grease fire can cause the fire to spread. In the event of a range-top fire, turn off the burner, put on an oven mitt and smother the flames by carefully sliding a lid or cookie sheet onto the pan. Leave the lid in place until the pot or pan has cooled.
  • Clean cooking surfaces regularly to prevent grease buildup which can ignite.
  • Always wear short, tight-fitting sleeves when cooking to prevent clothing from coming in contact with a burner and catching fire.
  • Do not hold children while cooking or carrying hot foods or drinks. Keep children at a safe distance from hot surfaces, liquids and other kitchen hazards.
  •  Plug microwaves and other kitchen appliances directly into an outlet. Never use an extension cord for a cooking appliance as it can overload the circuit and cause a fire.
  • Double-check the kitchen before you go to bed or leave the house. Make sure all other appliances are turned off and that any candles or smoking materials are safely extinguished.
  • Smoke alarms save lives. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home, test alarms monthly and change batteries annually or as recommended by the manufacturer if your alarm features long-life batteries.

  • Turkey fryers are becoming an increasingly popular choice to cook the Thanksgiving turkey and can be extremely dangerous if proper precautions are not taken. If your plans include using a turkey fryer, fire department officials urge residents to follow all manufacturer directions closely and to review the following safety tips: 

    Turkey Fryer Safety Tips:

  • Never leave a fryer unattended.
  • By design, turkey fryers are prone to tipping over. Fryers should always be used on a non-combustible, flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
  • Fryers should always be used outdoors at least 10 feet from buildings and any flammable materials. Never use a fryer on a wooden deck, under a patio cover, in a garage, porch or other enclosed space.
  • Do not overfill the fryer. The oil may spill out of the unit when the turkey is placed into the cooking pot. Oil may hit the burner/flames resulting in a potential fire hazard that could engulf the entire unit.
  • Oil and water do not mix! Make sure the turkey is completely thawed before it is placed in a fryer. Partially frozen turkeys can cause a spillover effect which may result in a fire. 
  • Some units do not have thermostat controls and, if not carefully watched, have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching the pot or lid handle. The sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles get dangerously hot and can result in severe burns. If available, use safety goggles to protect your eyes from any oil splatter.
  • Keep children and pets away from fryers. The oil can remain dangerously hot even hours after use.
  • Following these simple fire safety tips can boost survival rates and reduce injuries dramatically.  For more information about our fire safety programs or to request a free home safety evaluation or smoke alarm check, call 311 during business hours or visit our website at at any time.