Octoberdevoted to fire safety

Thirty people from the state of Minnesota have died in housefires this year.

Anna Ewart

Have you checked your smoke alarms recently?

October is Fire Prevention Month in Minnesota. This year’s campaign focuses on four ways to decrease the number of fire-related deaths and injuries, according to a news release from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

So far this year, 30 people statewide have died in house fires.

The Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division is trying to spread awareness of things people can do to prevent and survive fires.

Fire Marshal Division spokeswoman Kristin Chapin said the four emphasized survival techniques are the presence of smoke alarms, having fire escape plans, checking for fire hazards and the “change your clock, change your battery” campaign, which coincides with daylight saving time adjustment near the final week of Fire Prevention Month every year.

This year, clocks will be reset Nov. 4.

Katie Hamilton, a journalism senior, lost everything in a fire that destroyed her apartment in September 2006.

No one was injured in the fire, but Hamilton said she is now much more careful when it comes to fire hazards.

“I never thought in a thousand years it would happen to me,” she said.

She said students should be careful about anything that could possibly start a fire and make sure they have some kind of insurance to cover damages in case of a fire.

Chapin also said most fire deaths take place at night in homes with nonoperational or missing smoke alarms.

She said many people actually take the batteries out of smoke alarms to put them in other things, like radios, and never put them back.

From 1994 to 2003, 234 students died in house fires in Minnesota, she said.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency, smoking, heating devices and cooking equipment are all possible fire hazards.

Another fire hazard could be the combination of smoking and drinking.

Patrick Sheehan, supervisor at the State Fire Marshal office, said there could be a direct relationship between fires caused by smoking and alcohol, but there are no hard statistics to prove it.

He said there have been cases in which people started fires by falling asleep while smoking a cigarette after consuming alcohol.

“It doesn’t always get reported that the person who started the fire was under the influence,” Sheehan said.

Sarah Sampolinski, residence director at Bailey Hall, said campus residence halls did a safety week at the beginning of the semester.

One day was dedicated to educating students about fire risks. They also held fire drills.

Fire Station 19 responds to calls in the University area.

From Sept. 1 to Oct. 12, the station responded to 10 calls in which a fire was actually found.

Capt. Tom Thornberg of Fire Station 19 said 80 percent of Minneapolis Fire Department runs are related to medical calls, not fires.

Fire Prevention Week is a national event held Oct. 7 through Oct. 13 every year and has been observed nationally since 1922.

Both the national Fire Prevention Week and Fire Prevention Month in Minnesota commemorate the 1871 Great Chicago Fire.