Fire prevention week begins Oct. 9

Fire Prevention Week runs from Oct. 9 to Oct. 15.

Photo Courtesy: The Westfield News

WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) — As Massachusetts Fire Prevention Week is set to kick off Oct. 9 and the weather gets colder, local fire departments and the state fire marshal’s office want to remind residents to practice better fire safety.

Better fire safety, including checking and maintaining smoke detectors and practicing safe heating can be key in both saving lives and property. For those over 65, the risks are higher and preparation is especially crucial, so assistance is also available to help those that need it. Last year, 34 percent of people who died in Massachusetts fires were 65 and older.

“If smoke detectors are functioning is the key,” deputy chief and head of fire prevention in the Westfield Fire Department Eric Bishop said. “What we stress is to change your batteries, whether your detector is chirping or not–don’t wait for your battery to be low.

“Every 10 years smoke alarms should be changed, per manufacturer’s guidelines,” he said. “People get busy, so it’s low on their priority list until you actually need one.”

Replacing your aging smoke detectors

Bishop said that checking smoke detectors and changing their batteries can be especially troublesome for senior citizens, who run the risk of getting injured climbing ladders, step stools or chairs to reach the devices.

Last year, the Westfield Fire Department and several other groups combined to create two programs to assist this at-risk population with smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. One program was done by the department and the Westfield Senior Center, while another was done with the American Red Cross and local Boy Scout troops.

However, those who cannot check their smoke detectors or need assistance with other smoke detector problems shouldn’t wait for programs like these to get assistance. Instead, Southwick Fire Department chief Russ Anderson urges residents to reach out to their local fire departments.

“The department will assist people if they cannot change or reach their smoke detectors,” Anderson said. “Call the non-emergency line and someone will assist, or even if you have smoke detector questions.”

Both Anderson and Bishop also want people to be aware of how they are heating their homes and to do so safely. This means cleaning and inspecting chimneys with certified professional chimney cleaners, especially before you start to burn. In Southwick, there has already been one chimney fire that caused damage not only to the chimney, but also to the walls of the home.

Additionally, Bishop said that all heating elements, whether it is a space heater, fireplace or stove, need to be at least three feet from any combustibles.

“In Westfield, we do have a lot of people who burn wood so we want to make sure that no one has an emergency,” Bishop said. “We’ve had a number of chimney fires over the years that spread to the home and we would hate to have a loss like that.”

Fire Prevention Week runs from Oct. 9 to Oct. 15.

Copyright 2016 The Westfield News