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EDITORIAL: Try to make your home a safe one this winter

Unfortunately, 2018 has already been a busy year for the Powell Volunteer Fire Department, with two structure fires inside a week. A local resident died in a home fire on Saturday night; a separate fire earlier in the week destroyed all of a homeowner’s belongings.

Tragic stories like these are reminders of the dangers of fire and of the importance of fire safety in the home, especially in the colder months. According to the American Red Cross, if a fire starts in your home, you may have as little as two minutes to escape — and that’s with a working early warning smoke alarm.

Powell resident Rey Adame’s trailer home caught fire in the early hours of Jan. 2, with a space heater determined to be the culprit. If not for his trusty German shepherd mix Blue alerting him to the flames, Adame’s story might have ended in tragedy.

“Everything was full of smoke,” Adame said. “I pulled the couch back to see where it was burning. But I couldn’t see anything — just the fire.”

Not everyone has a canine companion to rouse them in the event of a fire, which is why smoke detectors are critical.

“Had the dog not been there, the outcome may have been worse,” Powell Fire Chief Damian Dicks said. “We cannot stress enough to have smoke detectors in the home.”

Fire crews were called out yet again Saturday evening, as a fire raged at a residence at Lane 10/Road 13 just outside of Powell. While the incident remained under investigation at press time Monday, authorities say the home’s resident perished. Crews worked the fire and its aftermath well into Sunday, with the last truck leaving around noon. Our thoughts are with the resident’s family and friends as they mourn the tragic loss of their loved one.

Events like these can bring out the best in communities, be it the quick reaction times of fire crews and first responders, or the community members who open their hearts and hands to those the fires have affected or displaced. But there are steps owners and renters can take to increase the odds of a happy ending. Some top tips provided by the American Red Cross are as follows:

• Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.

• Test smoke alarms every month. If they’re not working, change the batteries.

• Talk with all family members about a fire escape plan and practice the plan twice a year.

• If a fire occurs in your home, get out, stay out and call for help. Never go back inside for anything or anyone.

The majority of the disasters the Red Cross responds to every year are home fires, where the families are often left with only what they were wearing when they escaped. Heating sources are often to blame.

“Heating sources are the second leading cause of home fire deaths, and fatal home fires increase during the winter months,” according to redcross.org. “In addition, the National Fire Protection Association states that half of all home heating fires occur in December, January and February.”

As winter now moves forward in earnest, please take the necessary steps to ensure you and your family’s safety in the case of a fire. Though a house and the items inside hold a significant value in both monetary and sentimental ways, a friend or family member can never be replaced.

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