Precautions now mean safe heat
Two things happen this time every year, regular as clockwork.
First, there are a spate of fires as residents crank up the heaters or fireplaces for the first time in the fall. Some are also caused when squatters try to heat the places they are occupying. They build a little fire to keep warm and it either gets out of hand, or it is left unattended, perhaps by someone who thought it was out.
Secondly, there is Fire Prevention Week. Firefighters go to schools and community centers, civic organizations and such, to teach residents and children how to prevent fires, plan for their escape from a fire or prepare a fire plan.
That those two things happen at the same time is probably no coincidence.
The fire department is working hard to get the word out that most fires can be prevented or nipped in the bud.
First, residents can make sure that fire alarms and smoke detectors are working properly, and that there are sufficient numbers of those devices in the home.
They are relatively inexpensive, and may cut the cost of homeowner's insurance.
The batteries should be changed out on a regular basis. Especially helpful is that firefighters will come and help the elderly or disabled members of the community change the batteries in the smoke detectors, fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
Secondly, residents can be sure their heating systems and fireplaces are in good working order.
It is cheap peace of mind to have someone come in, check the heater or clean the chimney before the start of heating season. The same person that ensures the heater is working properly can check to make sure there is no crack in the unit that would allow carbon monoxide to infiltrate a home and poison its occupants. No one should ever use a grill or charcoal cooker to heat the home. It is far too dangerous, as the fumes given off can easily kill those the heat is meant to keep comfortable.
It is easy for those of us who have nice homes with good heating systems to be aghast at the idea of someone who has to use a fireplace, stove or grill for heat, but rest assured there are people in Atmore who rely on those sources because they have nothing else. If you know of someone in that type of situation, suggest they contact the Red Cross for help in obtaining a safe heat source before the coldest months get here.
Then there are those fires that start because a trash fire gets away. There is very little reason to burn inside the city limits. The town has very good garbage pick up, and also picks up limbs, grass and hedge trimmings and other yard trash. Perhaps the only reason to burn is so that we all know by the smell of leaf fires that fall is here.
But as dry as the weather has been, it is an unnecessary risk when there are other means of disposal.
There is very little that is more comforting on a brisk evening with the first snap of chill in the air than a fire. If you feel that prehistoric need for fire, be careful. Inside use a clean, safe fireplace. Outside, use a device built for just such a purpose, one that contains the flames and sparks.
That way we can enjoy watching the fire without the unpleasant consequences of having one get away.