Every minute counts for fire safety

5 Feb 2010 | Lance Cpl. Victor A. Barrera

The pan has just enough oil and is slowly starting to heat up to just the right temperature to fry some fish. Next to it, a pot of rice is steadily bubbling. Last but not least, the biscuits are baking in the oven carrying their buttery-aroma to every corner of the house.

Everything is set for a perfect dinner. Until the cook remembers he forgot to grab candles and a few soft drinks. He thought the food would be ok. It would only be a few minutes and he would come back quickly. He was wrong.

Residents of the Tarawa Terrace communities, along with a few other Marine Corps housing areas, have made the mistake of leaving the kitchen, sometimes for just a few minutes, while food was cooking, said Dixie Lanier, the strategic marketing manager for Atlantic Marine Corps Communities.

Although service members and their spouses are required to attend a fire safety class, the number of house fires caused due to unattended food has remained an average of two a month.

This may not seem like a big number, but the fires could have been easily prevented.

“All fires are serious,” said Glenn Zurek, the assistant chief of fire prevention. “It is our job to prevent fires through education and engineering.”

AMCC works with the fire department to host fire safety classes covering a wide variety of topics such as how to prevent fires, the safety measures installed and what to do in case of a fire.

In every home, safety measures are installed to prevent fires. Some steps taken to prevent house fires include sprinklers, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.

Another prevention method is the hood system. The system is a fire extinguisher-type device mounted above the kitchen stove. If the heat reaches levels of 280 degrees Fahrenheit the system will activate spraying a wet chemical over the stove.

The chemical is unique because it can be used to also put out grease fires, which most fire extinguishers are not capable of doing.

Service members and their spouses who attend the fire safety course are taught the PASS system when using a fire extinguisher.

PASS stands for pull, aim, squeeze and sweep. The steps are simple enough but they are both lifesaving and money-saving.

If a fire got out of control and burned a kitchen down, costs could range from a few hundred dollars and some ruined pots pans and stove to $20,000 to replace a kitchen, said Zurek.

“A fire can damage a whole house leaving the residents temporarily or even permanently displaced,” said Lanier. “Even if the fire can be contained to just a small area the water damage caused in extinguishing it can also displace families.”

Currently the Atlantic Marine Corps Communities is searching for ways to keep families safe and more informed about the dangers in their homes.

It is not just houses that could be in danger if a fire occurs, it can be a service member’s wife, husband or children and the Atlantic Marine Corps Communities is making sure that every family is well prepared for any danger they may face.