Class teaches fire safety to Lejeune residents

15 Mar 2012 | Lance Cpl. Paul Peterson

Every week aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Donald Edwards, a fire safety instructor and inspector with the Camp Lejeune Fire Department, has a sobering statistic to share with the attendees of the Atlantic Marine Corps Communities’ fire safety and prevention class.

Edwards goes to the U.S. Fire Administration’s website and looks up the number of daily residential fire fatalities listed on the site: On the day of March 6, that number was 15. For the next hour, Edwards teaches those attending the class about fire safety as part of a brief for residents living in base housing here.

According to an article from an AMCC newsletter, the classes, which meet every Thursday from 9 to 10 a.m., seem to be helping. The Camp Lejeune Fire Department helped educate more than 5,000 AMCC residents in a three-year period, and the number of fires in AMCC homes aboard the base that were caused by unattended cooking, which is the top cause of household fires in the U.S., dropped from seven in 2010 to five in 2011.

“They’ve asked us to work with them on fire safety in order to keep the residents safe,” said Edwards. “We are here to help keep the residents safe so the folks here at Camp Lejeune can do their mission.”

The class here teaches residents to identify fire hazards, operation of fire extinguishers, maintaining safety in the kitchen and what to do in case of a cooking fire.

Edwards said that pouring the contents of a cooking fire down the sink can actually make the fire worse. Most plumbing is made of plastic, which can melt and expose the chemicals and cleaning agents beneath the sink, leading to a chemical fire.

Attending a brief on fire safety is a base order for any residents moving into base housing, said Edwards, and living on base provides additional benefits when it comes to safety.

Camp Lejeune has its own emergency call center with trained dispatchers, and residents on MCB Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River have 10 fire stations to help them in case of an emergency.

“Most of the time, if they need to dial 911, hopefully within about six to eight minutes we will have a fire truck in front of their residence,” said Edwards.

The department’s goal is to have a fire truck on scene in around seven minutes, following the national best practice times. The amount of time needed for a response varies depending on location, but the department is normally successful in meeting the time.

AMCC builds houses to a fire code and provides residents in base housing with a fire extinguisher and smoke alarms. AMCC checks the smoke alarms and the fire extinguishers to verify that they are functioning any time they go to work on a home for things like maintenance, said Edwards.

The class also covers how to use the extinguishers provided by AMCC and recommends they check their alarms and extinguishers regularly, giving the residents yet another measure of safety if a fire breaks out in the house.

 “We’re not trying to make firefighters out of anybody in (the class),” added Edwards. “If you do not feel comfortable and you don’t know what to do, evacuate the home and dial 911. The number one thing is to get life out of the home.”

Fire safety in the state of North Carolina is a serious issue. The USFA website estimates 22 deaths in the state between Jan. 1 and March 6. The number of deaths in the U.S. due to residential building fires for 2010 was 2,555, with an additional 13,275 injuries and more than $6.5 billion in monetary lose.

For more information on household fires in the U.S., visit or visit for general information on fire safety in the home.