West Columbia Fire Department proactive as Fire Prevention Week approaches

WCFD photos.

Oct. 7- 13, is Fire Prevention Week and the West Columbia Fire Department has a message for its residents.

“Smoke detectors have been proven to save lives,” said West Columbia Fire Chief Chris Smith. “We never want any loss of life.”

Smith said the WCFD gets smoke detectors from the American Red Cross. He also said department personnel installs smoke detectors in homes where the resident is unable to do it for themselves. “All homes should have a smoke detector,”said Smith. And Fire Prevention Week is also a good time to check the batteries in smoke detectors to make sure it works.

West Columbia’s Fire Prevention Officer Rodney Howell echoes the sentiments of Smith. He said fire alarms and carbon

monoxide detectors are essential. “We want to make sure there is every opportunity to get out of the house in the event of a fire,” said Howell.

While it is Fire Prevention Week, Howell said the effort for fire safety is ongoing.

“We are available all the time. We’re proactive to provide smoke detectors in every home,” said Howell. And there’s a reason.

“If there is a fire, somebody is already having a really bad day. We don’t want to respond to a bad situation, where someone is hurt. There is a need for smoke detectors. We want to meet that need.”

As a part of his job in fire prevention, Howell goes to West Columbia schools to teach students about fire prevention. He was at Saluda River Academy for the Arts, Thursday. It’s a school for elementary ages.

Howell said children are told to “stop, drop and roll,” if their clothing catches fire. “He said they learn that in school. “It’s our point to reach them at a young age,” Howell said.

He also said Fire Prevention Week is October, a time when students are accessible in schools, and it’s the time of the year when the weather may begin to become cooler, and more gas, fireplaces and kerosene heating sources are put into use.

The statistics regarding fires is staggering.

Each year, the Red Cross responds to nearly 64,000 disasters, the vast majority of which are home fires. On average seven people die every day from a home fire, most impacting children and the elderly. 36 people suffer injuries as a result of home fires every day. More than $7 billion in property damage occurs every year as a result of fires.

Howell said it is important to 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.

There are measures to take regarding fire safety. 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 and stay out. Call for help. Never go back inside for anything or anyone.

Fire responders know the tragedy of a fire first hand. Howell said there is a lasting feeling of sorrow and loss for a firefighter after responding to a scene of destruction.

That’s why the West Columbia Fire Department makes every effort possible to prevent each and every fire.

“I cannot describe how it feels,” Howell said. He said there is a “weight” that firefighters deal with when they see the devastation caused by fire.

Because of the impact fires have, the West Columbia Fire Department also stresses educating the public regarding fire prevention. The department’s fire prevention efforts include speaking to civic groups and church groups. Children’s activities have also been successful in teaching prevention.

“Our job is to protect and educate,” said Howell. “That is crucial to prevention.”

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