Area Firefighters Busy

posted by WMT News / KCRG-TV9 -

- Over this past weekend, the Red Cross helped the victims of 15 different fires.

Nicole Breitbach, Executive Director of the Northeast Iowa region, says that number is higher than a normal winter weekend with some of those fires being heating-related.

Since November 1, 2017, the Red Cross assisted 143 families across Iowa. That's 17 fires a week since the beginning of November.

Specifically in Dubuque, Assistant Fire Chief Mark Ludescher says the department responded to 6,075 calls for service in 2017. That's about 50 more than in 2016, or at least one more call per week.

Ludescher warns the public of some things that can be hazardous inside homes.

Because of the cold weather, he stresses the importance of properly using space heaters.

"You want to make sure it's plugged directly into the outlet, the outlet is big enough to handle the heater and that you don't use an extension cord to overheat the device," he said.

He adds that you also want combustible materials at least three feet away from the heater.

Candles; they're often popular to use around this time of year. However, if you aren't going to be around to watch the flame, you probably just want to put it out.

Ludescher said, "candles are just like recreational fire. You have to attend them, you have to keep an eye on them. If you have dogs, pets and kids, they are prone to get knocked over."

Although the holidays are over, you might still have your Christmas tree up. Ludescher says you should just toss it as soon as possible.

"We see Christmas trees drying out so if you have your Christmas tree and you're done with it for the year, now's a good time to get it out to the street," he explained.

If you have a fireplace, Ludescher says they require regular maintenance and proper disposal of ashes.

"When you clean out your fireplace, make sure you put it in a noncombustible container and put it outside the home," he said.

He also says your furnace needs yearly maintenance.

Ludescher said, "most furnaces and appliances are 10 to 15 years. If you’re getting more than that out of it, you should start thinking about making sure you have more maintenance done to them."

Lastly, he says having a fire extinguisher handy and an emergency plan is vital.

Ludescher explained, "be prepared. If you have a fire in your house, do you have an escape plan? Do you have a meeting area?"

Breitbach echoes all of these warnings.

She says no matter what, Red Cross and its volunteers will always be prepared to respond to house fires and other emergencies.