Firefighters hope fire

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 4, 2001

education will save lives


Staff Writer

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Jan. 3, 2001 10 PM

Fires have claimed the lives of a number of Alabamians in recent weeks and the Pike County Fire Fighters Association wants to make sure that does not happen here.

Since Thanksgiving, 31 people, including several children, across the state have died in residential fires.

Likely some of those deaths could have been prevented with a little knowledge and that is exactly what the Pike County Fire Fighters Association wants to do.

The Association is in the midst of a fund-raising effort to purchase a fire safety house, which will be used as an educational tool to teach children how to handle a fire emergency.

The houses are equipped with telephones so the child can practice calling 911, smoke generators so they will learn to crawl underneath the smoke filling up the house and heating elements for the doors, so a child can touch it and know not to open it.

Robert Catrett of the Pike County Fire Fighters Association said knowledge does save lives and talked about a young child in North Alabama who was able to save himself and members of his family because he knew what to do during a fire.

But, the those means to teach fire safety don’t come cheaply.

A fire safety house costs between $18,000 and $27,000.

The one the Pike County Fire Fighters Association is looking to buy will cost about $24,000, Catrett said.

"We’re two-thirds of the way there," Catrett said of the fund-raising efforts.

He said the Pike County Commission has allocated funds and several companies have joined the effort, but money is still needed.

"We need the money, but we want people to know the fire safety house is to save lives," Catrett said.

He said a fire safety house "is not just something to play with," but is something that can save lives.

Looking at the statistics, Catrett said there is definitely a need for people to be educated about what to do in the event of a fire emergency.

Nationwide, 5,000 people are injured or killed in fires, Catrett said, adding many of them are small children because they get scared, hide in a closet and die.

While most fires can be prevented by being cautious, especially when the cold weather forces people to bring out space heaters and light logs in the fireplace, more lives can be saved through education.

Fire deaths during the cold weather months have increased in Alabama since 1997 when 18 people died during November and December. The following year, 16 people died during that same time period and 33 died in 1999.

Some of the fires, such as the deadly ones this year, have been sparked by space heaters to close to flammable materials like curtains and blankets. Others have started when someone turned on the oven and left it open for heat, only to have a nearby towel or other item catch fire.

Anyone who would like to help the Pike County Fire Fighters Association raise money for the fire safety house can send donation to P.O. Box 222, Troy, Alabama 36081 or call the Association’s office at 566-0481.