As the weather is getting colder and people are again heating their homes, Comox Valley fire departments are busy reminding the public about fire prevention and safety.
Next week is Fire Prevention Week, from Oct. 7 to 13, and Courtenay deputy fire chief Kurt MacDonald said the whole month of October is the perfect time of year for public reminders.
“This time of year you’ve got people that are using wood heat to heat their homes so you have a higher chance of having a chimney fire,” said MacDonald. “You’ve got people with furnaces and natural gas and stuff, you know, all these appliances are starting to be utilized this time of year because it’s getting colder.”
He noted a few simple tasks people can do to protect themselves from fire: ensure working smoke alarms are in the home, have a fire escape plan, check for fire hazards around the house, have chimneys cleaned, refrain from burning green wood and pay close attention when cooking.
MacDonald noted an important aspect of teaching about fire safety is the transportable fire safety house.
The house is taken around to Comox Valley elementary schools throughout the month to teach Grade 3s what to do in a fire. Kids go into the house and firefighters teach them what to do as the house fills up with fake smoke.
According to MacDonald, teaching children at this age is important for two reasons. One is that they need to know what to do if they’re in a fire.
“If they’ve been properly trained, they’re less likely to panic and go hide in their closet or hide under their bed, you know, they’re more likely to get down on the floor, check the door with the back of their hand, crawl to safety,” he said. “It’s not always possible that mom and dad are going to be able to reach them.”
He also said trained kids train their parents.
“They’re like little sponges and they go home and they tell their parents everything that they learned about during the day,” he said. “They go home and they start nagging them (their parents) to check their smoke detectors or ‘Mom you should be watching the stove while you’re cooking’ or anything like that — they’re very good teachers for adults.”
The Courtenay Fire Department will also have a display set up Oct. 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Home Depot (388 Lerwick Rd.), which is a professional development day for teachers, so kids are not in school. Firefighters will be on hand to teach the public about fire prevention and safety — and show off a fire truck.
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The Comox Fire Department will host its annual open house at the fire hall (1870 Noel Ave.) on Oct. 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“We do it every year and it usually turns out to be a pretty big deal,” said fire chief Gord Schreiner. “We’re well-located in Comox here on a very busy street; we typically give away hot dogs and drinks during the event and so it draws a fairly big crowd, and we have lots of nice equipment to look at and people seem pretty interested in fire safety.”
Comox firefighters also head out to Comox elementary schools to teach kindergarten to Grade 3 students about fire safety. They send home information packages for their families, and get the kids geared up for the fire safety contest; each Comox elementary school that completes a set of fire prevention activities can enter to win $500.
Schreiner noted the Comox Fire Department will focus on teaching the importance of smoke alarms because they are a simple device that can save lives, but the department will also try to cover the whole gamut of fire safety.
“We’ll talk about things like having a fire extinguisher in your home, for example, and knowing how to use it, having your house properly addressed so emergency services can find you, you know, things like that,” he said.
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Cumberland Volunteer Fire Department fire chief Mike Williamson said the village will recognize Fire Prevention Week a little later, from Oct. 21 to Oct. 27.
Firefighters will also head out to teach Grade 3s about fire safety and will hand out a special fire safety book to each student.
“It’s all on fire safety and the kids have the whole year to do it, and at the end they get a certificate signed by the fire chief,” explained Williamson. “It’s interactive with the parents. They take it home, you know, they learn their escape plans and they have to bring it back, they have to make a safety poster — and it’s really a good system.”
There will also be tours of the fire hall (2673 Dunsmuir Ave.) that week.
Williamson said people need to take fire safety and prevention seriously, pointing out that the Cumberland Volunteer Fire Department has pretty fast response times once they get a call, but people need to protect themselves, too.
“Our response times are like five or six minutes, so in five six minutes there’s a lot of things that can happen, and so you need that early detection, you know, it’s so important, like a plan and early detection to get out of the house,” he said.
For more on Fire Prevention Week, visit www.fiprecan.ca.