Home Fires in North Central Florida
You hear fire safety phrases from the time you're a child. "Stop, drop and roll." "Test your smoke alarms." And "Never leave a burning candle unattended."
However even with reminders, there are hundreds of fires in North Central Florida each year. With two home fires in Gainesville just in the last few days. These fires emphasize the importance of not just hearing, but heeding fire safety tips.
Last night around 9, Gainesville Fire Rescue responded to a house fire on SE 13th Street. A woman fell asleep with candles still burning, and her mattress caught on fire.
Neighbor Frank Johnson said, "I looked over, the house next door...then I saw some fire, I heard the glass breaking and then it was like woah, this house is on fire."
District Chief Richard Saulsberry said a neighbor noticed smoke coming from a back window of the home and called 911. Saulsberry said, "If it wasn't for the alert citizen, surely this outcome could have been a lot worse."
Firefighters stopped the blaze and the woman inside was treated for minor burns and smoke inhalation.
On Christmas Eve, Gainesville Fire Rescue responded to another fire at NE 25th Street. A space heater started sparking, setting a mattress, and eventually the whole house, on fire.
Saulsberry said, "They're called space heaters...they need space! When they're being utilized they should never be left unattended and you surely should never fall asleep with one of those on."
These fires remind us of a more widespread problem. This year, the American Red Cross of North Central Florida has responded to over 150 home fires. Emergency Services Manager Casey Schmelz said, "I think that we are all in a place where we see it on the news, we hear about our neighbors and we think it's just not gonna happen to me. Well I can tell you, I had 500 hundred clients this year sitting in front of me that said the same thing."
Schmelz said home fires will happen and that taking small steps to be prepared can make the difference between life or death. She said, "Make sure that you have smoke alarms installed, make sure that they're connected so that when a fire happens in your kitchen it will alert you in your bedroom. Make sure you change those batteries twice a year."
Schmelz also advises that families plan and practice a fire escape plan and that you make sure your insurance coverage will protect you if your home is damaged in a fire. She said, "I think that there's steps that we can all take. We all love space heaters, everybody likes to light a candle, especially during the holidays it really sets that theme. But, remember before you go to bed, if you can't turn it off in your sleep, then make sure you turn it off before you go to bed."
The local chapter of the American Red Cross said the peak fire season starts in October and goes until February. So residents need to be especially careful right now. For more information on how to prevent home fires go to http://www.firesafety.gov/
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