City fire official talks fire prevention

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WATERTOWN — Sunday kicked off Fire Prevention Week nationwide. There are some simple things people can do to lower the risk of fires, Watertown Battalion Fire Chief Ronald V. Wareham said.

One of the biggest ways people can reduce fires is by paying attention to surroundings and being safe in the kitchen.

“A lot of the fires we have across the nation are cooking fires, they’re a very big problem,” Chief Wareham said. “People just aren’t careful. They’ll start the stove up and they’ll step to the living room to check on the kids or finish watching their TV show while something’s heating up. So pay attention, just because it feels safe, cooking can be dangerous if not done properly.”

People should also be keeping an eye on their children while cooking to make sure they don’t get hurt or start a fire, the fire chief said.

Another risk for fires is a normal household item that people use, an extension cord.

Chief Wareham said that the two-pronged extension cords that people get at stores aren’t designed to carry as much load as people plug into them.

“We see people running a TV, a DVD player, an Xbox, you know they have five, six things plugged into these things and they draw so much electricity through it that it heats up the wires and causes fires,” he said.

He said surge protectors do offer some protection, but they still have the risk of overloading the outlet.

“Putting too much into one outlet even with a surge protector, even that is not a good practice. It’s too much on one outlet,” he said.

With temperatures dropping, some people may also turn to space heaters, which come with their own risks.

Chief Wareham said there needs to be a minimum of around 36 inches of clearance around a typical household space heater and they should be placed away from couches and chairs.

For people with small children, tall radiator-type heaters should not be used because children can get burned on them, or if not used correctly upright they can cause fires. This is because the heating element is on the bottom of the unit.

Chief Wareham also said that recommendations from manufacturers say that people should have their heating system serviced and maintained by a certified technician.

Chief Wareham said they will commonly receive calls for a smell of something burning when a furnace is turned on for the first time during the year.

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