Ochs: Embrace safety practices to keep your home safe from fire

Many people in our community have a heightened concern about fires today, and it is easy to understand why.

Superstition Fire and Medical District Assistant Chief/Fire Marshal Richard Ochs

The increased precipitation over the past two years has produced much desert growth, and particularly ground vegetation. Much more vegetation than we have seen in several years. And now that the 100 (+) degree summer temperatures have dried out this vegetation, fire danger is a legitimate concern.

Several wildfires have already occurred in and around the Phoenix Metro Valley and here in the Apache Junction area. However, none of those fires match the magnitude of the one burning within the Superstition Mountains. This fire is quite close to our community and it has caused people to think much more seriously about fire, and about how to protect their homes and properties.

Persons can protect themselves, their homes and their property from the devastation of fire by embracing a few safety practices. In-home safety practices can help to prevent fires from starting in the home and good landscaping practices can help to protect a home from wildfires.

Everyone should review the following fire-prevention tips and realize that most home fires can be prevented.

In-home safety practices:

  • Test your smoke alarms monthly and replace batteries as necessary. Choose a day that will be easy to remember each month, such as the first day of each month. Although some smoke detectors are designed to last up to 10 years, none last forever. Replacing your smoke detectors may be the best investment you ever make in your home.
  • Do not leave anything flammable near the stove or oven and remain in the kitchen when cooking. Don’t leave a hot cooking surface unattended. If you have to leave the room, take the pot off the stove or turn the stove off. Persons can be easily distracted and temporarily forget that something is cooking on the stove.
  • Do not leave outdoor grills unattended at any time. Do not use grills under patio covers, on balconies or within 10 feet of a home or other structure.
  • Do not allow combustibles of any kind to be stored near space heaters, hot-water heaters or other heat-producing appliances.
  • Clean out the lint trap in the dryer after every load. Regularly check behind and around the dryer for pockets of lint or items of laundry that have fallen under or behind it.
  • Do not use damaged, frayed or repaired electrical cords, and do not use extension cords as a source of permanent wiring. Do not use multi-plug or strip adapters that are not protected by a built-in circuit breakers.
  • Never leave candles unattended and always keep them away from flammable items like blankets and curtains. Place candles in secure, tip-proof holders and extinguish them before leaving or going to sleep.
  • Keep fire extinguishers handy and be sure everyone in the home knows how to use them. It is ideal to have a few fire extinguishers in your home and garage. At the very least, keep one in the kitchen or other high-risk area.

Good landscaping practices:

  • Remove all weeds and dead ground cover that is within 30 feet of the home.
  • Trim shrubs and trees that are closer than 10 feet from the home.
  • Cut tree limbs that are less than 5 feet in height and clear all ground vegetation from under trees to prevent fire spread.
  • Store away furniture cushions, mats, potted plants and other decorations from decks, porches and patios.
  • Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches that could burn.
  • Move any flammable material at least 30 feet away from the home.
  • Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves and debris that could catch fire from embers.

It is very important to maintain a clearing around the home. This will create a defensible space that can prevent a wildfire from extending to the home and will also give firefighters a better change of saving the home.
It is also important to understand these safety practices need be followed at all times, and should be a standard way of living.

A wildfire burning in the community or a fire in your neighbor’s house is not the time to consider ways of protecting your home from fire.

Richard Ochs
Assistant chief /fire marshal, public information officer
Superstition Fire and Medical District

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