As Fires Burn ‘hotter, Faster,’ Prevention Week Puts Spotlight on Safety

October 9, 2018

Longmont Station firefighter Jarrod Hurley shows Central Elementary first-graders what firefighters look like when they're wearing their bunker gear. The visit to the school was part of the Longmont Fire Department's efforts to raise awareness about how quickly fires spread and how people can make their homes safer in conjunction with national Fire Prevention Week. First-graders also were taken outside to see a fire engine.

Smoke detector installation

Longmont Fire Services can help you install a smoke detector. For more information, call 303-651-8437.

In Longmont, the average response time for firefighters to arrive at a scene is nearly twice the length of time someone has to escape a house fire.

To raise awareness of how to remain safe in a house fire, the department is visiting local schools and participating in national Fire Prevention Week, which started Sunday lasts through Oct. 13.

“Fires burn hotter and faster today than they did 30 (to) 40 years ago,” fire services Chief Jerrod Vanlandingham said in an email. Faster burns are due to a number of factors, including growing use of synthetic materials for furnishings, open floor plans in homes and lightweight construction materials made with laminate glues, he said.

It’s estimated that people have three to four minutes to escape a fire in their homes, Vanlandingham said.

The average response time for Longmont firefighters to get to a scene from the time of the 911 call is seven to eight minutes. The national standard is between five and six minutes, according to Vanlandingham.

Increases in both call volume and local traffic has lengthened the amount of time it takes firefighters to get to calls, he said Monday.

“About 30 percent of the time our fire units are already handling another call, so a unit has to come from another part of the city to take that call,” he added.

While colder months don’t spark images of raging wildfires like summer does, the risk is still there for homeowners.

Winter home fires make up only 8 percent of the total fires in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration , but they result in 30 percent of all fire deaths. Nearly 900 people die in winter home fires each year.

Heating equipment is often involved, and cooking is the leading cause of winter home fires.

To prepare for a potential emergency, Vanlandingham recommends people install and maintain smoke detectors in their homes, sleep with closed doors to prevent airflow that could help spread a fire, and plan escape routes ahead of time.

In the winter, Vandlandingham also recommends people hire professionals to check or maintain their furnaces, clean out their fireplaces and chimneys, and use caution with electrical space heaters.

“They’re always a danger in the home,” he said. “Often a piece of clothing or whatnot will fall on a space heater.”

The U.S. Fire Administration also recommends keeping portable generators outside and away from homes.

Madeline St. Amour: 303-684-5212, mstamour@prairiemountainmedia.com

Update hourly