About 15 adults at the Orange Senior Center listened raptly as an Orange firefighter told them they were twice as likely as the general population to be killed or injured by fire, and then discussed ways to avoid becoming part of those statistics.
Doug Fenichel, a firefighter with the Orange Volunteer Fire Department, was joined by James Vincent, deputy fire marshal, Orange Fire Marshal’s office. In a program called “Retire Fire,” the pair covered smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, cooking and home fire sprinklers.
“Statistics tell us that adults over 65 are 2.7 times more likely to die from a fire than the total population,” said Orange Fire Chief Vaughan Dumas. “In 2015, older adults represented only 15 percent of the country’s population, but suffered 40 percent of all fire deaths. While we still love to teach kids about fire safety, this is a population that is growing every year and merits special attention from the fire service.”
Using slides and props, Fenichel covered some basic tips on fire safety, and then homed in on fire alarms, cooking and sprinklers. Vincent joined in the discussion, elaborating on many of the points.
The pair reminded the residents not to move or disable smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. They discussed maintenance of the alarms, including changing batteries when clocks are changed and knowing when a detector has reached the end of its life.
Cooking is an obvious source of fire danger, Fenichel told the group. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of kitchen fires and related injuries. He warned against wearing loose clothing because sleeves can touch burners and light up instantly. Clothing accounted for 18 percent of cooking fire deaths. He offered other safety tips, such as making sure handles are pointed toward the back of the range, not leaning over a hot burner and turning the stove off when cooking is through. The pair showed the residents how to put out a pan fire with a lid or cookie sheet but warned them that anything bigger should be handled by the fire department. And they warned against leaving the stove unattended, even for a minute.
The one-hour talk also discussed getting out of a home in case of a fire. That’s of special concern in a population where residents may need mobility assistance or help staying oriented to the situation. Vincent also gave a quick lesson on using fire extinguishers, including where to keep an extinguisher, and how to care for it.
Fenichel showed a dramatic video demonstrating the impact sprinklers can have on a fire in a home. He acknowledged that many residents who live in their own homes probably don’t have sprinklers, but he said the video also demonstrated how quickly smoke detectors activate and how rapidly fire spreads.
“This is why we tell you to get out and call us,” said Fenichel. “Fire spreads exponentially. We have the tools and the training to find and extinguish the fire.”
Residents asked numerous questions about escape routes, smoke detectors and other issues of concern to them.
“Responding to fires isn’t the only way we can help our neighbors stay safe,” said Dumas. “Education is a powerful tool to help people avoid emergencies that can threaten lives and property.”
The Fire Department and the Fire Marshal’s Office offer public education programs for various audiences. Firefighters can also welcome groups to the fire station with advance notice.
The Orange Volunteer Fire Association provides fire protection to residents and businesses in Orange and, through mutual aid, surrounding towns. Members receive training in fire suppression, rescue, hazardous materials response, homeland security issues and other emergency services.
Operating strictly with revenues from fundraisers and donations, the Orange Volunteer Fire Department is one of the remaining few all-volunteer incorporated fire departments in Connecticut. Active members are on-call to serve the community on a 24-hour/seven-day basis, responding from stations on Orange Center Road and Boston Post Road.
In addition, the fire company offers public education services including lectures, demonstrations and training. For information about membership, donations or public education, call (203) 891-1052, click on https://www.orangevfd.org/ or find us on Facebook.