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After 2 homes saved, fire department recommends these winter safety tips

After two recent homes were saved after owners were woken up by smoke alarms, officials with the Forsyth County Fire Department said there are several fire safety tips residents should keep in mind as the weather cools down.

Forsyth County Fire Department Div. Chief Jason Shivers said on back-to-back days, firefighters responded to early-morning fires that would likely have been worse if residents were not woken up by the smoke alarms.

“Two fires in a row, two nights in a row early in the morning while the occupants were asleep,” Shivers said. “In both cases, everyone in the home was able to get out safely because their smoke alarms properly notified them of the fire.”

Firefighters responded to the first home, on Spindletop Drive off Hwy. 141 in south Forsyth, at about 3:45 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20 after being contacted by members of the family.

“The family was able to safely escape the home and notify 911,” Shivers said. “Of course, we were able to respond quickly and got the fire under control within just a few minutes of arriving and were able to save and salvage most of their home.”

Shivers said there was damage to the home’s garage, kitchen and mud room, along with some smoke and water damage, but “the vast majority of the structure, and their valuables, belongings and keepsakes, are all safe and salvageable.”

“Most importantly, the family was able to be notified of the fire because of their properly equipped and working smoke alarms and were able to get out safely,” he said. “They were asleep. Had there not been properly working smoke alarms in the home, they likely could have been injured or succumbed to the smoke.”

The following day, at about 1:45 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 21, firefighters responded to a similar incident after a homeowner on Capri Street in east Forsyth called about a small kitchen top fire.

Like the day prior, the owner was asleep and awoken by the fire alarm.

Shivers said having properly working smoke alarms is crucial for fires, especially at night.

“You cannot smell when you are asleep. It’s a common misconception,” he said. “That’s exactly why smoke alarms are so critical because your body turns off that function when you’re asleep.”

He recommended that residents test to make sure smoke alarms are properly powered and working and said the beginning and end – Sunday, Nov. 6 – of Day Light Saving Time were good times to remember to change batteries in most smoke alarms.


Holiday safety

Cooler weather also means it is time to celebrate holidays like Diwali and Halloween, and Shivers said there are precautions families can take for both.

Diwali, the festival of lights that symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil, will begin on Monday, Oct. 24 and is commonly celebrated with fireworks.

Shivers said those shooting fireworks should be aware of recent dry weather.

“Fireworks are legal now, but please use them appropriately,” he said, “and be mindful of the dry conditions we are experiencing currently,”

As families also get ready to decorate for Halloween, Shivers urged residents to make sure any extension cords used for decorations are in could condition and are not placed under mats, rugs or other coverings.

“If you’re going to do any kind of decorations and you use extension cords, make sure those cords are allowed to properly cool and are in like-new condition,” Shivers said.


Staying warm

Shivers said there are also precautions residents should take as they begin heating homes.

He said homes using natural gas or propane, which need an open flame, and those using fireplaces should be inspected before use.

“It’s critical you have those chimneys inspected,” Shivers said. “Whether it be a true masonry chimney or a pre-constructed chimney system, it needs to be inspected by a qualified chimney sweep to ensure that it is safe for winter burning.”

Space heaters are another popular way to keep warm, and Shivers recommended that before use, operators should make sure the heaters can be used in homes – since many are meant for workspaces like garages, shops and warehouses.

“You never ever want to burn a gas-burning appliance in your living space that is not designed to be in that space,” “because if they are not properly vented or don’t burn clean enough, not only does it cause a fire hazard, but it also causes a carbon monoxide hazard.”

Like decorations, Shivers said extension cords for space heaters should be uncovered and in good condition.