The USFA also reports the national fire death rate to be 11 deaths per one million people. Alabama’s fire death rate is almost double that at 21.2 deaths per one million people, giving the state the fourth highest fire death rate in the nation, behind Washington, D.C., Arkansas and Mississippi.
Jasper Fire Chief Calvin Kluesner told members of the Kiwanis Club of Jasper Monday that statistics like those make National Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 7-13) an important time for residents to evaluate fire safety around their homes.
“Fire safety in the home is an important thing,” he said. “It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ it is a matter of ‘when’ a fire is going to happen, and you have to plan for it.”
Kluesner said the Jasper Fire Department is working throughout October to teach fire safety to children at area schools. Firefighters will visit the children and distribute fire safety materials.
“If we can teach the children a few things, they will take it home and ask their parents about it,” Kluesner said. “We teach the children to help mom and dad to be careful and considerate of things that may cause fires.”
Kluesner stressed that families should have a fire plan for their homes.
“A fire plan can save lives,” he said. “Families, especially those with small children, should go over how to get out of the home in case of a fire and where you should meet. Those plans should also be practiced at least two or three times per year.”
Smoke detectors are also a key to saving lives, Kluesner said.
“If you have smoke detectors in your home, it doubles your chances of survival,” Kluesner said. “It is suggested to have a smoke detector on every level of your home, but I always tell people to put up more than that. Smoke detectors are cheap these days and you can get them just about anywhere. Put them in every hallway and in every bedroom if you can.”
Appliances and alternative heat sources, such as space heaters, are also the culprits in many fires, Kluesner said.
“We’ve had three house fires this year that were started by the clothes dryer,” he said. “Usually it happens if the lent trap is not cleared properly or if people stack clothes on top of the dryer. Those are things you have to watch for.”
Space heaters can be a major problem, but remembering to keep them 3 feet from anything is a rule Kluesner stressed.
“Anything electronic can start a fire,” he said. “Space heaters are one of the big issues we see. They can’t be close to anything that can catch fire. People need to constantly keep an eye on their space heaters.”
Kluesner invited the public to visit the fire department, which has three locations in Jasper. The main location is on 18th Street in downtown.
“We’re open 24 hours per day, and we enjoy having visitors — especially children,” he said. “Those visits help to show children not to be afraid of firefighters. That can be very helpful when we are called to a scene.”