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EDITORIAL: Prevent a fire, support a firefighter

Some of the costs of a fire are obvious: homes ruined, acres burned bare and a property owner’s life disrupted.

Less obvious, however, is the toll that fires take on first responders.

Like many communities across the country, Powell is fortunate to have a dedicated group of service-minded heroes who range from the EMTs at Powell Valley Hospital to officers, deputies and dispatchers with the Powell Police Department and Park County Sheriff’s Office.

But we’re especially blessed to also have a volunteer fire department, a group that — despite earning their livelihood elsewhere — is ready to drop whatever they’re doing at the sound of a text, page or fire whistle. Whether they’re at their jobs or with their families, members of the Powell Volunteer Fire Department answer the call when someone’s in need.

While their dedication is appreciated, it’s better when firefighters’ heroics are unneeded and they can just go about their daily lives.

That’s where you can help.

Not all fires can be prevented, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk. For example, the National Fire Protection Association says to avoid leaving ovens and other hot equipment unattended when cooking (the No. 1 cause of home fires), keep your chimneys clean and make sure heaters and stoves are a safe distance from flammable materials like furniture, clothes or beds. All of those situations are common causes of home fires, which claimed more than 2,500 lives across 365,500 homes in 2015, the NFPA says.

You can also prepare by making sure you have working smoke detectors in your residence. The devices can literally mean the difference between life and death; in 60 percent of fatal home fires, the residence either had no smoke alarm or no working one, the NFPA says.

You should also take a few minutes to come up with plans for evacuating your house or apartment in the event of a fire. Odds are you won’t need it, but it’s better to be prepared: If a fire breaks out and your smoke alarm begins sounding, you might have less than two minutes to get out before your life’s in danger, the NFPA says.

For more information, you can visit www.firepreventionweek.org or stop by the Powell Volunteer Fire Department’s annual open house on Saturday.

Firefighters will cap national Fire Prevention Week at the Powell Fire Hall, 1101 E. South St., with a 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. event. In a pair of live fire demonstrations, at 12:30 p.m., they’ll demonstrate the benefits of a home sprinkler system and why you should never try putting out a grease fire with water.

Given that many people only meet our local firefighters at the scene of an emergency, the open house is also a perfect chance to say hello — and thank you.

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