Winter Prep Guide: Protect Your Home, Yourself From Fire

Most fatal fires happen right where you think you are the safest - in your own home, according to Jennifer Mieth, public information officer for the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services.

Many break out at night when people are asleep, Mieth said, and "your sense of smell goes to sleep when you do.''

As you prepare your home and yard for winter, waiting until the last minute to turn on the heat, there are things you can do to keep you and your family safe from fire. There were 14,173 residential-building fires last year, with 44 deaths, according to the Department of Fire Services. That represented 84 percent of all structure fires reported in the state and a 2 percent decrease from 2015. It was the lowest number reported since 2008, but we can do better.

"There are a lot of things people don't know and a lot of misconceptions,'' said Susan McKelvey, communications manager for the

National Fire Protection Association

. "There are so many things we can do to dramatically reduce the risk of fire - sometimes things people don't think about.''

We asked Mieth, McKelvey, and the state's fire marshal, Peter J. Ostroskey, for fire-prevention tips:

Check your alarms

"It is important to have working smoke alarms,'' Mieth said. "People that have battery-operated alarms [need to] replace the batteries twice per year to make sure they are working.''

Smoke alarms last only 10 years, she added; after that the sensor deteriorates.

The

National Fire Alarm Code

requires a smoke alarm in every bedroom, on every level of the home, and in any area other where people sleep.

"There is a sense of overconfidence at home,'' Mc-Kelvey said. "People don't think fire will happen to them, so they don't take it seriously.''

Don't forget to have working carbon monoxide detectors on every floor, too.

Make an

escape plan

"The key is to have two ways out'' of each room, Ostroskey said, "so you have the best chance if one is impeded for some reason.''

Today's homes burn a lot faster because so much furniture is made of synthetic materials, Mieth said. Home fires double in size every minute, and they emit toxic gases, she said. (Watch a video shot by the Brockton Fire Department in 2003 that shows how quickly fire can spread. Click

here

.)

When making an escape plan, McKelvey said, ensure all exits are clutter-free, and designate a meeting place outside, in front of your home.

Once you are outside, do not go back in for anything, she said.

Be careful cooking

To prevent a fire, "stay in the kitchen when you are cooking,'' Meith said. If there is a fire, "put a lid on it, turn the heat off, and resist the temptation to move the pot.''

And never leave the house or go to a bed with a major appliance like a stove or dryer running or Christmas lights or space heaters on, she said.

Keep the electronics to a minimum

"As a general rule, one plug, one outlet,'' Meith said. "Heavy-duty appliances need to be plugged directly into the wall. Don't plug an extension cord into a power strip.''

And check your cords. Make sure that they are not pinched and that nothing is sitting on top of them, Ostroskey said.

Need to charge your phone for work in the morning? "Never leave a lithium ion battery-powered appliance charging after it is fully charged, so it is best to break the habit of leaving cellphones charging overnight,'' Mieth wrote in an e-mail. "I have a terrible photo of a fire at Framingham State of a laptop left on the bedclothes, starting a terrible fire, and [I] have seen photos of cellphones under teens' pillows starting fires. ... Battery-operated appliances like this generate heat. ... charge your appliances on noncombustible surfaces.''

Have a licensed electrician check your home's wiring every 10 years. Small upgrades and making sure that grounds are secure usually don't cost a lot, Meith said. "As our electrical usage over time grows, it's important to have your system keep up. ... Just as you need a new roof every so often, one should plan to make upgrades to the electrical system.''

Keep it clean

"We are coming up on heating season, so make sure chimneys,

woodstoves

, and other fossil-fuel equipment is clean,'' Ostroskey said. Also, get your gas heaters checked before turning those on.

Be sure to dispose of ashes in a metal container with a lid - not in cardboard boxes, recycling bins, trash barrels, plastic bags, or with other refuse, Mieth said.

Keep an eye on those portable heaters

Establish a 3-foot circle of safety around your space heater, free of anything that can burn, Meith said, and be sure to turn it off before you go to sleep. Avoid using an extension cord; plug any heat-generating appliance directly into a wall outlet.

"Daisy-chaining'' extension cords was a factor in both fatal space heater fires last year, she said. "Extension cords don't have the safety of a circuit breaker tripping when overloaded.''

"Use the proper appliance [to heat your house]; don't use a stovetop or oven for heat,'' Ostroskey said.

Store flammables away from the furnace

Keep a 3-foot safe zone around the furnace, free of anything that can burn, Mieth said, adding that paint and chemicals should be stored in a shed or a locked garage. Gasoline, however, should not be stored in an attached garage.

And what kind of fire extinguisher should you have on hand?

"I do not recommend fire extinguishers,'' except as a way to help you escape, Mieth said. "Most people are not trained to use extinguishers, [and] most home extinguishers are not recharged periodically, so you don't know if they'll work.

"It is a contradictory message to get out and stay out,'' she said.

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Fire Causes $75,000 Damage to Cambridge Townhouse ...
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As Hurricane Sandy Hit N.J., Barrier Island Holdout Was 'pretty Scared'
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In Kiron, Iowa, Pop. 229, the Meaning of a Life, a Death and Another Cup of Coffee
KIRON, Iowa - Russell Paulson had already heard by the time he arrived at the Quik Mart for his afternoon coffee. Walt Miller had died."Died last night, huh?" someone was saying as Russell pulled up a chair."Yeah, last night," another man said.Russell listened; he had known Walt. At the age of 80, he knew almost everyone in Kiron, a town of 229 people, one of whom is U.S. Rep. Steve King, who has a house on the edge of town. Russell knew King, too, knew that he was the sort of person always stirring controversy, often by raging against what he called "cultural suicide by demographic transformation." More recently, King had said that "we can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies," a comment embraced by prominent white supremacists and widely condemned around the country as demonizing Latino and other non-European immigrants. There was little controversy across King's district, though, a swath of rural America made up of tiny towns with tiny, aging white populations that routinely elected King with more than 70percent of the vote. In Kiron, people brushed it off as King being King, a man they all knew, expressing a plain truth they all understood: The white population was shrinking, and towns like theirs were vanishing, with the few exceptions being places such as Denison, a pork-processing town 20 minutes down the highway where population growth was being driven by immigrants from Mexico and Central America.Kiron, meanwhile, was losing steam. According to the most recent census figures, the population included nine Mexicans; the other 220 were all white, and their numbers were decreasing by 10 or so each year, and now, on a Wednesday, by one."Oh, Walt Miller? He did pass?" Dwain Swensen, 67, said, sipping his coffee."What'd he have, pancreatic cancer or something?" said Ron Streck, 70."Liver," said Herman Kohnekamp, also 70. "I think that's what it was, wasn't it, Russell?""I knew he passed but didn't know any details," Russell said.It was a quiet afternoon, the ritual 3 p.m. coffee in a place where, as one regular put it, "you can figure out Steve King by understanding all of us." Every day but Sunday, the bell on the front door rang as they arrived. The wood-paneled backroom was waiting. The Bunn-o-Matic and the Styrofoam cups. The space heater humming. The clock with the squinting Merit cigarette man on one wall, the calendar on the other, the cracked blinds dangling over the window where the view through the slats was a sea of farm fields, and on a hill in the distance, a stand of evergreens where the cemetery was. Now the bell on the front door rang again, and Russell looked up."Oh," Ron said under his breath, seeing who it was. "Here comes trouble."It was Kevin Lloyd, 52, who came in occasionally, and had been in the day before, all riled up about the latest Steve King situation, waving his hands and going on about how people had misunderstood what he'd meant about "other peoples' babies.""If you're American, you got to take care of America!" he had said then. "I love that people want to come here from Mexico, from Ukraine, from the Middle East, but they need to come here legally."Dwain, Ron, a woman named Jane Gronau and Russell had been there, sipping their coffees, as Kevin had continued that he had no idea why people would call King a "white supremacist," or, for that matter, why people would call President Trump racist. "Now, is Barack Hussein Obama a Muslim? In my opinion, yes," he had said, and that had brought him to the other thing he figured King meant about babies. He had meant Muslim babies of the Muslims that Obama had allowed into the country."And here, I'm going to quote a great president, Abe Lincoln," he had said. "He said the fall of America will come from the inside. Well, if you're allowing all these children in, and if they hate America, how long is it going to be before we're not the United States of America anymore?"Jane had nodded: "If you study the number of Muslims, there are going to be so many here, and they're going to have so many kids, they're going to be able to take over that way."Dwain had nodded: "They say 'freedom of religion' but if you're Muslim, and you become Christian, you're ousted. Sometimes, they kill 'em.""They behead 'em," Kevin had said into a quiet Iowa afternoon."I think what King was trying to get across is, look: We can only grow so many hogs, so much beans and so much corn," Kevin had said. "If we let everybody in, we're going to be without a food source. And what happens when that's gone? Then we're all in trouble."Chaos, beheadings, starvation, the death of one America and the rise of another - that was the trouble Kevin had raised the day before, and now he was back, interrupting the conversation about Walt Miller."What are you up to, Mr. Paulson?" he said to Russell."Just listening and learning," Russell said, looking at the floor, holding his coffee. "Every once in a while, I learn something here. Every once in a while, I learn something about myself.""So how old was Walt?" Ron continued."Mid-60s, I'd say," said Herman."Died last night," Ron said again."Last night," Herman said again.After a while, Russell asked, "I wasn't sure if he was home?""Yeah, he was at home," Herman said, and Russell was quiet the rest of the afternoon.The next day, Russell had his morning coffee and got into his car.He stopped by the bank where he'd been going since the 1940s."Hi, Russell," the one teller said to her one customer.He got back into his car and drove one block to the edge of town, turned onto the two-lane highway, then one long gravel road after another, straight lines stretching out into still-fallow fields."Some of the roads have been abandoned," he said. "Because there's not as many people living out here, the roads just disappeared."He knew the roads better than anyone. His own family's roots in the area stretched back to the 19th century, when the U.S. government was aggressively removing Native American tribes to make way for one of the largest immigration waves in American history. The Swedes came, the Germans came, the farms, the towns and generations of babies, one of whom was Russell Elmer Paulson, born in 1937. He was raised on his mother's family farm in rural Kiron and never left other than a stint in the Army, and one in Dubuque."It wasn't for me," he said, driving along.He and his wife, Glenda, inherited land when Russell's parents died and lived on it until they retired and moved into town. Russell's work had been farming and insurance adjusting. His culture was being a Methodist and a Mason and listening to polka, though most of that had fallen away. The church he and Glenda had gone to "died for lack of people and money," he said. There were hardly any Masons left. Polka was not enjoying a revival. His kids had left for jobs in other areas. Glenda had died last year."See that ridge? That's the old railroad bed," he said now, driving along, squinting through his gold-rimmed glasses."My aunt bought this," he said, passing a stand of trees where farmhouses had been."Walt would go there," he said, pointing out a repair shop where Walt Miller had coffee, and soon he turned onto a narrow dirt road leading to the farm where he and Glenda had lived, a collection of storage buildings where Russell now kept his old tractors, and one he used as an office, where he went these days to work crossword puzzles or just sit and think."Commune with God and the birds," he said. "Well, not too many birds now."He glanced around at the old buildings, now shuttered and locked, though someone had broken into one of them recently."They stole a bunch of tools and such," Russell said, pulling back onto the gravel road. "No need to get all worked up about it."He had a huge bag of peppermint Life Savers on the console, and he unwrapped one and put it in his mouth. He passed a rotting barn and a bird on a stretch of barbed wire, and after a while, a gray house with a huge American flag."This is Steve King's house here," he said, looking at it.He had known King a long time and saw no reason to be bothered by something or other he said. He supported King - "I have no reason in the world to dislike the man" - but wasn't one to rant about politics. He had no computer, no smartphone. His television had no cable. He watched a half-hour of national news, a half-hour of local, followed by "Wheel of Fortune" and Lawrence Welk. He ate chicken tenders and food he described as "American.""He's just kind of one of us," Russell said of King, driving on past a field where a church had burned down, and the home of a man who'd died last year. It began to rain."When it comes down like it's doing now, it's just wonderful," he said.He drove past fields and more fields until he came to another stand of trees on a hill."This is the cemetery," he said, pulling in.He drove slowly past the headstones. "A lot of these people I knew," he said and began reading names."Larson.""Lind.""Gustafson.""Paulson - this would be my folks right here," he said, and then he noticed the time, almost 3 p.m.He headed back to town, pulling onto Main Street where a wooden sign said, "Kiron, Blessed with the Best."After King had made his comment about babies, some out-of-town protest group had put up another sign below that one that said, "White Supremacist."The sign didn't make any sense to Russell, and, after it was removed, his main worry was that the protesters might have damaged the town sign, which had started to rot a few years ago.Russell had taken on the job of maintaining it. He had trimmed the tree branches that had grown through the wood. He had taken down "Blessed with the Best" and repainted each of the letters. He went to a lumberyard and had a new K, I, R, O, and N made, painting each letter several times and spraying them with wood preservative. One year, he and Glenda had planted a bed of petunias and geraniums."I don't think we will ever have a better display of flowers," he said now, and soon he was pulling up to the Quik Mart for the afternoon coffee. As he walked inside, he saw a funeral notice on the front door with a photo of a smiling man in gold-rimmed glasses."Oh," Russell said, pausing for a moment. "There's Walt."He glanced at the funeral information for Walt Miller, poured his fourth coffee of the day, and sat down in the backroom. Dwain and Charlie Harm were already there, but they weren't talking. A car swooshed by. An eighteen-wheeler swooshed by. Charlie tapped his nails on the table.The next day, the bell rang as the door with the funeral notice swung open, and it was Dwain, then Bob James, then Herman, then Russell. The Merit cigarette clock showed a few minutes after 3 p.m. Russell got the coffee pot and poured. The bell rang again, and it was a man named Glen Ballantine."Time for plowing?" Herman asked the 84-year-old farmer."Two weeks," Glen said, sitting down.Bob was reading the paper. Russell was sipping his coffee, looking out the window."Got the visitation tonight," Herman said.He didn't have to mention Walt Miller's name because they all knew what he meant.They went back to talking about plowing, and Glen was saying how different farming was now than when he was a young man, which for some reason reminded him of one of his first jobs, digging graves."For 18 bucks," he said."You dug a regular grave for 18 bucks?" said Dwain."Oh yeah, and we had to fill 'em back up again," said Glen."I helped dig one once," said Russell. "You know, manually. Only one. I don't know what I got paid. But. That's a long way down to the bottom of that.""If there was frost in the first foot, you got $1 more," said Glen."What'd you use to get through the frost?" asked Bob."Pickax and sledgehammer," said Glen. "And when we'd fill 'em, we'd fill 'em in 14 scoops. We were just little kids, more or less.""We had more dirt than we needed," Russell said. "And had to -""Had to haul that away," said Glen, finishing his sentence."Had to put that on the pickup," said Russell, and they went on talking like that until Herman got up to leave. It was after 3:30 p.m."Funeral home starts, what, at 4?" Herman said."Four till 7, it says on there," Russell said.The funeral home was in Denison, and the sun was going down as Russell turned onto the two-lane highway toward one of the only towns in Steve King's district that was growing, and which appeared in the distance as a cluster of lights and rising steam from the pork-processing plant.Russell turned by the Walmart, bustling on a Friday payday, and turned again into a neighborhood where Latino kids were playing in a yard. Up a hill, he parked in front of the funeral home, where people were still streaming in near 7 p.m.Russell made his way through the receiving line, his hat off, comb lines visible in his gray hair. He shook hands with Walt's family, who thanked him for coming, and inched forward until he reached the open casket.He stood there a moment. He looked at Walt. He looked at the light-blue satin lining and the farm scene etched into it. A man stood next to Russell."Went fast," he said of Walt, who had passed away soon after his diagnosis. "That's what you hope for.""I do," said Russell, still looking at Walt, and soon, he headed back to Kiron.The funeral was the next day at Zion Lutheran Church in Denison, and more people came from Kiron and other vanishing towns like Odebolt and Ida Grove. They sat in jeans and dresses and suits on the wooden pews of a church founded in 1872, and read about Walt in the program, where it was said that "farming and fixing equipment and household items were his favorite things to do," and soon the church bells began ringing.The pews creaked as everyone stood and watched the pallbearers roll in the coffin draped in a white cloth with a red cross, and a procession of dozens of family members that included exactly one baby, a girl with a black ribbon around her head."Your world has changed," the pastor began.When it was over, people got back into their cars and drove 20 minutes up the highway to the cemetery in Kiron, a long procession of headlights passing through fields and more fields, then turning right, then heading up the hill to the stand of evergreens, and afterward, at 3 p.m., the bell on the Quik Mart door began ringing.It rang for Herman, who arrived with a loaf of homemade bread. It rang for Dwain, for Bob, and for Charlie, who shuffled into the backroom and said, "Buried a nice guy this morning."It rang for Russell, who poured his coffee, walked back into the wood-paneled room, and pulled up a chair."Strawberries come to life this time of year, Russell?" Dwain asked."I don't know," Russell said.They talked about the frost, and when spring might arrive."Well, I better get moving," Charlie said and headed out."I got things to do, too," Russell said, but then he didn't leave, not yet.He got up and sat where Charlie had been, closer to the window."Well, I gotta go," Herman said."See you, Herman," Russell said."Bye, Herman," Dwain said, and now there were just the three of them left.Dwain cleared his throat. A car passed by. The space heater hummed. Bob finished his coffee. Russell swallowed the last of his."You want more coffee, Mr. Bob?" Russell asked."Do you?" said Bob."Yeah," Russell decided, and walked over to get the coffee pot.He poured some into Bob's cup. He poured some into Dwain's cup. He filled his own and sat down again. He tapped his thumb on the table. Eventually he stood up and walked toward the door, where Walt's funeral notice no longer was."See ya, Russell," said Dwain."See ya, Russell," said Bob."I hope so," Russell said.
12 Killed in New York City Apartment Fire
Twelve people were killed and four more were seriously injured and fighting for their lives late Thursday in a fast-moving fire at an apartment building on a frigid night in the Bronx, according to New York City's mayor.The victims included a child around a year old, Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a briefing outside the building."We may lose others as well," he said.Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro called the fire, "historic in its magnitude," because of the number of lives lost."Our hearts go out to every person who lost a loved one here and everyone who is fighting for their lives," he said.The blaze broke out at a five-story building, a block from the grounds of the Bronx Zoo.The fire began on the first floor just before 7 p.m. and quickly ripped through much of the building, officials said.Neighborhood resident Robert Gonzalez, who has a friend who lives in the building, said she got out on a fire escape as another resident fled with five children."When I got here, she was crying," Mr. Gonzalez said.Windows on some upper floors were smashed and blackened."The smoke was crazy, people screaming, 'Get out!," a witness, Jamal Flicker, told the New York Post. "I heard a woman yelling, 'We're trapped, help!"According to city records, the building had no elevator. Fire escapes were visible on the facade of the building.One of the deadliest fires in recent city memory happened elsewhere in the Bronx in 2007. Nine children and one adult died in a blaze sparked by a space heater.
These Are the 5 Best Amazon Deals You Can Find Right Now
- Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. However, our picks and opinions are independent from USA Today's newsroom and any business incentives.There's nothing quite like getting a good deal, and I'm not talking about finding something on sale that you weren't already shopping for. No, I'm talking about when you find a deep discount on something you've wanted to buy for a while but have been waiting for the right moment. When your white whale finally drops in price and you're there to take advantage of it, you feel like the GOAT of shopping.But finding those amazing prices on awesome products can be tough when sites like Amazon are constantly beating you over the head with all of their "sales." You know the ones I'm talking about: The $1 discounts on obviously low-quality products from brands you've never heard of (and probably will never hear of again), the "major sales" that are actually just the prices you'll find every day, the sales that actually are good on products that actually are not worth it.More: The 20 best things you can get for under $50Every day, our team of product experts puts our knowledge and experience to work filtering out all the garbage "deals" and bringing you the top sales, deals, and offers you can get right now on things you'll actually be happy you bought. So, without further ado...1. The best TV at its second best price in time for the Super BowlIf your TV is starting to lose its luster or you just want to upgrade to 4K before the Super Bowl, you're in luck. There are all sorts of TVs on sale right now, as this is the time brands are clearing out their inventories to get ready for the new models.It's the best time to score a deal, and of all the options out there, we recommend the LG C8 above the others. It's got an amazing picture quality thanks to the OLED screen and 4K picture, and it (like pretty much all new TVs these days) has a great smart platform built in so you don't need a streaming device to start binging Netflix.The 55-inch C8 originally retailed for $2,500 and has been hovering around $1,900 for the past few months, but right now it's only $1,700, marking the second lowest price we've ever seen (and the best price Amazon's ever had).Get the LG C8 55-inch OLED TV for $1,696.99 (Save $200)2. The best space heater is discounted at the perfect timeIf you're looking for a way to keep your home warmer without raising your heating bill along with the thermostat, a space heater is a great solution, and our favorite is on sale right now. This is the best space heater we've ever tested because, as our reviewer said, "it "does it all."Not only did it raise the room temperature of a 1350-cubic-foot room 6 degrees in one hour, but its slim, light design makes it a great fit in any home. It typically costs $90, but right now you can get it for just over $75, a bargain considering how expensive traditional heating can be.Get the Delonghi HMP1500 Panel Heater for $76.64 (save $13.35)3. These Lightning cables won't fray after a monthIt's 2019. If you're still using a charging cable that's frayed and requires at least five minutes of fiddling to actually juice up your phone, it's time to upgrade. Anker's Powerline charging cables are among the best. We love the braided nylon cover that stands up to tugging, knots, desk chair wheels, and anything else that might cross its path.Right now, you can get 3- or 6-foot cables in red, white, or black (or gold in 6-foot only) for $5 off with the coupon codes listed below. Whether you're replacing an old one or just want more charging options around your home or office, this is the deal you've been waiting for. Just make sure you use the right code for the right cable!4. The tax software you need anyway is on sale right nowWhether you prefer TurboTax or H&R Block, it's all discounted on Amazon right now. You can get a physical disc or a digital download, and both services have great perks like free live support (TurboTax is via phone and H&R Block has live chat). When we tested them, we found that TurboTax had a more intuitive interface. Both have the ability to upload the previous year's taxes regardless of which software you used in 2018.5. A top-shelf Sonos soundbar is at its lowest priceSonos is one of the leading names in home audio, and they recently released a new product to their lineup-the Beam soundbar. Despite being so new, the $400 Beam is actually already on sale for $50 off, the same discount they offered on Black Friday.This slim, sleek soundbar connects to your TV wirelessly to cut down on cord clutter. It's also Alexa-enabled, so if you have a Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, you can ask Alexa to start playing Jack Ryan. And if you're an Apple user, you'll be happy to know the Beam, like all other Sonos speakers, is AirPlay-enabled, making it super easy to find your favorite playlist on your phone and fill your home with music. You can choose black or white for the perfect fit with your decor.Get the Sonos Beam Soundbar for $349 (Save $50)The product experts atReviewedhave all your shopping needs covered this holiday season. Follow Reviewed onFacebook,Twitter, andInstagram.Prices are accurate at the time this article waspublished,but may change over time.
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