Las Vegas firefighters hoping to further educate through Fire Prevention Week

National Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 9-15, and firefighters across the nation are trying to get the word out on how people can save themselves and their property from preventable fires.

The good news is, locally, the message seems to be working.

“Most of the fires in the valley are caused by cooking mishaps,” said Las Vegas Fire Department Public Information Officer Tim Szymanski. “The most cooking fires we have this year are on Thanksgiving. Last year, we didn’t have one major fire from cooking on Thanksgiving.”

The other holiday that once led to fire spikes, Halloween, isn’t so scary for local fire departments either.

“We used to have to remind parents about making sure costumes weren’t flammable, and there would be a lot of fires around Halloween,” Szymanski said. “That was because people were decorating with candles and putting candles in their jack-o’-lanterns. These days, almost everyone uses LED lights, and we have a lot fewer problems.

Acknowledging National Fire Prevention Week has nothing to do with the fire-prone holidays, but rather, a nod to history.

“(Oct. 9 is) the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire,” Szymanski said. “(The Fire Marshals Association of North America) chose that date for Fire Prevention Day. In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge expanded it to Fire Prevention Week.”

While cooking causes the most fires, Szymanski said electrical issues are responsible for the most damage caused. Unlike cooking, electrical fires can happen at any time and get out of control. Some of the most damaging fires in the valley were sparked by simple household electronics such as phone chargers or power strips.

That’s one of the reasons that, this year, firefighters across the nation are focusing on smoke detectors.

“A lot of people don’t realize it, and they might remember to change the batteries every year, but after 10 years, the whole unit should be replaced,” said Adolf Zubia, assistant chief of the Clark County Department of Building & Fire Prevention. “Some of the new smoke detectors come with a 10-year battery, so you don’t have to change that.”

Fire departments have been trying to get people to change their batteries the same time they set their clocks back. Szymanski said that it isn’t necessary to change the batteries in the spring but that the detectors should be tested monthly.

For firefighters such as Zubia and Szymanski, fire prevention education is something they are concerned with year round.

“We’re going out and doing events at schools and other places that we’ve been asked to speak about fire prevention throughout the month of October,” Zubia said. “It isn’t just a week for us.”

They know that they’ve got a lot of work to do in getting the word out about fire safety.

“I’m happy to say that this year, we didn’t have one house fire caused by fireworks,” Szymanski said.” We did, however, have a lot of personal injuries caused by fireworks, and a lot of those went unreported. People went straight to the emergency room with burns obviously caused by illegal fireworks and claimed it was caused by something else, like a hot iron. Hopefully, we can continue successfully getting the word out, and we’ll see less of that next year.”

To reach East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor, email ataylor@viewnews.com or call 702-380-4532.

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