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Fire, Fire, Fire

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- It's 3 a.m., and everyone is asleep in bed. Suddenly, you hear the shrieking sound of a smoke detector. After jumping out of bed and waking your spouse, you gather the rest of your family and proceed to the nearest exit. On the way out, using the evacuation plan which has been practiced many times over, you see smoke billowing into the living room, and it's unusually hot. Once outside, at the designated meeting place, you make the call to 911.

This is how a lot of families encounter a life-changing event such as a house fire. Everyone got out alive because the smoke detectors worked, the evacuation plan was effective and you did everything you were supposed to. Fortunately, the damage was only to some of the furnishings in the house and no one was injured.

Believe it or not smoke detectors save lives! Across America each day, there are house fires where occupants perish because they were not awakened by their smoke detectors. The most common cause for a faulty detector is a dead or missing battery. The 366th Civil Engineer Squadron fire emergency services flight recommends testing smoke detectors once a month and changing the battery every six months. Doing these simple tasks should ensure the detectors will work when they are needed.

Another important thing is to obtain renter's insurance. The cost of a house fire can be phenomenal. The black and gray in the picture represents heat and smoke damage. None of these items were actually touched by flames.

Renter's insurance, in most cases, helps to offset the cost of recovering your belongings. A house fire can be devastating, and you'll need all the help that could possibly come your way.

One of the main causes of fires is unattended cooking. Each year, three out of ten house fires start in the kitchen, more than any other place in the house. On Mountain Home AFB as is true throughout the Air Force, unattended cooking is the leading cause of house fires. Most fires start because people will start cooking and then leave the kitchen. When they return, their stove or the whole kitchen is on fire. This can easily be avoided; simply don't leave the kitchen while cooking, not even for a moment. Also, ensure pot handles are turned inward, towels and pot holders are not placed on top of the stove and you wear tight fitting sleeves when cooking. Do not allow your work surface to become cluttered. The kitchen in most homes is a central focal point for daily life. Countertops become convenient places to leave things and before long they are littered with items that just don't belong. These "things" only serve to contribute to the likelihood of a fire happening in the kitchen.

If a fire should occur, report it immediately by dialing 911. If available, use a fire extinguisher to try and fight the fire, then evacuate to the meeting place. If the fire gets to too large with too much smoke, evacuate the building and call or have a neighbor call 911. One of the most important things to remember is "don't go back into the house once you have evacuated." Remember, never leave the kitchen while in the process of cooking and always ensure everything is turned off before leaving.

Remember to follow these three simple rules as they could help to protect you and your family from the tragedy of a house fire.

1. Check the operation of the smoke detectors at least once a month and replace the batteries every six months.

2. Obtain renter's or homeowner's insurance for your home. This will help offset the damage costs if a fire should occur.

3. Never leave the kitchen while cooking and keep all combustible materials away from the stove.

Hopefully, these rules will help keep you and your family safe.

If you have any questions about the aforementioned subjects or any other fire prevention items, call the Mountain Home AFB fire emergency services flight at 828-6292.