Monday, December 10, 2018

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. 




Sunday, December 9, 2018

Smoke Alarm Alerts Residents of Independent Senior Living Facility & Sprinkler Activates to Control Fire


Occupants Safely Escape & Credit Fire Sprinkler System


On December 5, 2018 tragedy was averted because of working smoke alarms and a residential sprinkler in an independent senior living facility in the Fairland/Calverton area.  Around 6:45 p.m., units from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service responded to 12801 Old Columbia Pike, Arbor Crest, a two-story, senior independent living facility, for an 'automatic' medical alarm for an unknown emergency.  Paramedic Engine 724 responded to the scene and encountered moderate smoke on the second floor, at which additional fire and rescue units were dispatched. upon further investigation, moments later Firefighters located a small fire in a bedroom. The fire which involved a mattress and some other nearby combustibles was controlled by a residential sprinkler system.  The fire was mostly out. In the meantime, some of the building had been evacuated and other portions were shelter and protect in place. Firefighters located and rescued/relocated a feline (cat) from the apartment of origin.

Fire and Explosive Investigators believe one of the residents of the apartment of origin had been consumed alcohol and was smoking cigarettes in the bedroom and at some point fell asleep. Another resident was in another room and heard the smoke alarm activate. Upon investigation and in an effort to check on his wife, he discovered a fire on the mattress by the pillows with his wife still on the bed. He was able to rouse her and then attempted to extinguish the fire, to no avail.  After numerous attempts of trying to put out the fire, both occupants evacuated the apartment. In the commotion of those efforts a medical alarm was somehow activated, automatically alerting 911 for an unknown medical emergency. An ambulance and Paramedic Engine were dispatched. The residential sprinkler activated after the occupants had left the area & prior to arrival of emergency personnel.  The sprinkler essentially controlled and extinguished the fire. There were no injuries associated with the fire.  Damage was estimated to $30,000.

It should be noted, none of the occupants called 911 to report the fire.

The Community Outreach Senior Program Manager and crews from the area fire/rescue crews (First Battalion) are scheduled to revisit the facility to meet with residents, review best practices and talk about fire safety and reminding residents of the importance of calling 911 in an emergency. 







Tragic November Fire in Bethesda Underscores the Importance of Working Smoke Alarms

Victims identified in November 21st Fatal Fire

In the early morning of November 21, 2018, units from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service were dispatched to the report of a house on fire in the 4800 block of Western Avenue in Bethesda. Shortly after 1 am several 911 calls were received by Montgomery County & District of Columbia 911 Emergency Communications Centers reporting 'flames coming from house.' Prior to the arrival of fire/rescue units, at least one caller indicated there was a high likelihood that people were still inside.  First arriving Montgomery County Fire and Rescue crews encountered heavy fire conditions and immediately attacked the fire, initially from the exterior and within minutes entered the burning house and located two occupants. Tragically, the two occupants succumbed to their injuries and did not survive. The victims were identified as John Ashton Randolph, age 61, and Inga Randolph, age 94, mother and son, both long-time residents of the Western Avenue home.

John Randolph and Inga Randolph are the first and second residential fire fatalities of the year in Montgomery County, MD.  Last year (2017) there were a total of three (3) residential fire fatalities. Montgomery County Fire and Explosive Investigators believe the fire's origin was on the first floor. There was evidence that the victims were mobile during the fire and may have attempted to fight the fire and then were unable to escape. Fire Investigators located several competent sources of ignition in the area of the fire’s origin, including the possibility of discarded smoking materials, a halogen light fixture -- none of which could initially be eliminated as a
cause. Maryland's Medical Examiner's Office determined the cause of death to be smoke inhalation and thermal injuries.

Fire Investigators reported that there was no evidence of working smoke alarms in the house.  At least one alarm in the basement had a battery that was several years old, while others had no batteries.  Several smoke alarms were found in a box on a shelf just inside the front door --- still in the packaging. Those alarms were dated/manufactured in 2013. 
Damage is estimated to be over $500,000.  

Teams of firefighters from Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services and the District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department joined forces returned to the scene and conducted an 'After-the-Fire' activity.  Dozens of firefighters canvassed the area, both in Maryland and nearby D.C., checking and installing smoke alarms where needed, talking to residents about fire safety and leaving fire safety information on the door for neighbors to review later.

Smoke alarms that are properly installed and maintained play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries from fire. Every year people across the country are saved from deadly fire situations after being alerted by their smoke alarms. Montgomery County residents are urged to call 311 for information on the department’s FREE Home Safety Check program. Residents who cannot afford smoke alarms or would like to schedule a visit by firefighters to check smoke alarms and ensure they are working and up-to-date are urged to take advantage of the department’s free and popular program.







Monday, November 19, 2018

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 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 www.mcfrs.org/mcsafe any time.
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    Monday, October 29, 2018

    Countdown to Halloween

    Tips for a Safe and Fun Night
    With Halloween quickly approaching, the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service offers some important tips for a safe Halloween.

    Plan a safe route.
    1. Accompany children and remind them to stop at all street corners, cross only at intersections and crosswalks. Teach them to look left, right and left before crossing the street and to continue looking both ways as they cross. If you’re a motorist, please slow down and be prepared to give trick or treaters a brake. 

    2. Stay in familiar neighborhoods and have a parent or responsible adult accompany trick or treaters. Visit only those houses where the lights are on. Accept treats only in the doorway and NEVER go inside a house or apartment.

    3. Secure emergency identification (name, address, phone number) discreetly within Halloween attire or on a bracelet.

    4. Safety in numbers.  If they’re old enough to trick-or-treat without an adult, designate a route before the kids go trick or treating, tell your kids to stay in a group, avoid taking short cuts through backyards and alleys and ask them to check in regularly.

    5. Ensure trick-or-treaters stay away from open flames or jack-o-lanterns with candles burning.

    6. Children should avoid busy streets, always use sidewalks, and follow all traffic rules and regulations. Motorists should drive slowly and be alert to small children crossing streets. Many accidents occur when motorists are backing vehicles out of driveways, unaware of the presence of small children.

    Be a good neighbor.
    1.  Keep your porch lights on and eliminate tripping hazards on your porch and walkway. Remove outdoor safety hazards such as toys, bicycles, garden hoses and lawn ornaments. Make sure the driveway and steps are cleared of leaves, which can be a slipping and falling hazard. Make sure that the driveway and walks are well lit for incoming trick-or-treaters. Replace burned-out or broken light bulbs.

    2. Pets get frightened on Halloween. Confine your pets for their safety and for that of trick or treaters.  

    Be Safe – Be Seen.
    1. Don’t assume the right-of-way. Motorists may have trouble seeing trick-or-treaters in the dark. Just because one car stops doesn’t mean others will.

    2. Encourage kids to follow all the rules for pedestrian safety. That includes obeying all traffic laws, looking both ways before crossing, using crosswalks, crossing at intersections and corners and never darting between parked cars. 

    All Dressed Up.
    1. Plan costumes that are bright and have reflective qualities. Consider adding reflective tape or decals to costumes and trick or treat bags. Be sure kids carry a flashlight and use glow sticks for extra visibility.

    2. When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories purchase only those with a label indicating they are flame resistant.

    3. Have an adult inspect treats BEFORE eating anything. Do not eat any unwrapped, partially wrapped, or homemade-looking treats.

    4. Shorter IS safer. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.

    5. Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup as a safer alternative.
    6. If a sword, cane or stick is part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if they trip or fall.
     
    Decorate Safely.
    1. Illuminate your jack-o’-lanterns with flashlights or battery-operated candles instead of real ones. You won’t have the worries of an open flame coming in contact with anything  . . .or anyone.

    2. If you do use candles, keep them well away from where trick or treaters will be walking or standing.  Review with your children the principle of “stop, drop and roll” should their clothing catch fire. 

    Lastly, teach children how to call 9-1-1 if they have an emergency or become lost.