Stay safe while keeping warm

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, November 18, 2014


LAPLACE — As colder weather continues to settle across the River Region this week, state and local officials urge that the proper use of heating equipment and smoke detectors is of paramount importance for residents.

The Louisiana State Fire Marshal reports the improper use of heating equipment — such as portable space heaters — is a leading cause of residential fire deaths.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, approximately one-half of fires during the months of December, January and February are associated with home heating appliances, with half of those resulting in deaths. The main culprit, according to officials, is placing flammable items too close to heat sources such as electric/gas heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves.

To help families stay warm while preventing fires this winter, officials encourage residents to properly install and maintain a carbon monoxide detector, have chimneys and heating equipment cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional, make sure to turn off all portable heaters when leaving a room or going to bed and adopt a “Three Foot Rule” — where children and/or flammables are kept more than three feet away from any heat source.

“Fire safety only works when we remain vigilant and knowledgeable as to how fire starts and taking steps to prevent it from starting,” State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning said.

With the start of the holiday season and the addition of fire hazards in homes, the St. John the Baptist Parish Office of Fire Services encourages residents to take advantage of the parish’s free smoke detector program, offered in partnership with the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

According to the State Fire Marshal’s Office, over 60 percent of reported home fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms or non-working smoke alarms.

“We all can work together to help reduce the number of home fire fatalities,” Chief of Operations for the Office of Fire Services Cain Dufrene said. “Every home needs working smoke alarms.”

The parish program provides smoke alarms and installation at no cost to the homeowner.

To request the service, go to the State Fire Marshal’s website at and fill out the Smoke Detector Application and Installation Form.

Once a request is made, the homeowner will be contacted to set up an appointment to install the new smoke alarm. Dufrene said residents interested in installing the free alarms themselves could do so.

Over 50 residents requested the service in a week’s time, Dufrene said, adding elderly residents requesting the service would receive priority instillation.

Residents who already have smoke detectors should test and change the batteries in their smoke detectors to reduce the chance of injury or death from a house fire, Dufrene said, and smoke alarms should be no more than 10 years old.

Incorporated with smoke detector use should be a home escape plan. Dufrene said the plan should include informing all members of the family, especially children, how to get out of the home during a fire and establishing a safe meeting point once out of the residence.

Smoke alarm installation and maintenance tips include installing smoke alarms inside and outside each bedroom and sleeping area, installing alarms on every level of the home, testing all smoke alarms at least once a month and using interconnected smoke alarms.

Dufrene said parish fire service personnel responded to 64 fire-related calls last winter, in comparison to 47 in the summer.

He said most of the calls were related to outside fires, adding it is extremely important to establish outdoor fires at least 10 – 15 feet away from any structure and make sure the fire is completely out before leaving it unattended.

Another leading seasonal fire hazard includes Christmas trees, and Dufrene said it is important to keep all real trees properly watered in order for it not to become a fire hazard.

Having a dry, lit tree is “like gasoline in your house,” Dufrene said, adding it is equally important to keep artificial trees away from space heaters and fireplaces.