A pot of oil heating to deep fry tonight’s dinner is left sitting on the stove when the phone rings. It’s an important phone call and before long, you’ve forgotten about the vessel on the stove. The oil ignites, quickly spreading flames to its surroundings.
Fire happens — are you ready?
Fire prevention and early detection were the keywords Saturday as the Hawaii County Fire Department and a host of other organizations and companies converged upon the Kona Walmart parking lot to promote fire safety and education during West Hawaii Fire Prevention Week 2013.
In addition to information and educational booths, an array of the department’s equipment — from Chopper 2 and Makalei Fire Station’s Hazardous Materials Team to Kailua-Kona Fire Station’s Rescue Team and ambulance — was on display for scores of Big Islanders young and old to peruse.
This year, the event’s theme was “Prevent Kitchen Fires.”
Kitchen fires are the leading cause of home fires in the United States, according to the National Fire Prevention Association, a nonprofit that works to “reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.” Two of every five home fires start in the kitchen.
“A high percentage of residential fires (that occur on the Big Island) start in the kitchen,” said Fire Chief Darren Rosario. “Many are started by unattended cooking.”
While it is optimal to prevent a fire in the first place, Rosario stressed that early detection of a fire is key to saving lives, reducing injuries and saving structures on the Big Island.
“If we can prevent a fire that’s a success. But, in the unfortunate event it does occur we have the great personnel and equipment to go out and take care of it,” he said.
He urged residents to remember in the instance of a fire to get every one out of the home safely, call 911 to summon the fire department and only then try to douse flames.
“Never think you can handle everything yourself,” he said.
Fire Prevention Week is normally held during the week surrounding Oct. 9, in honor of the Great Chicago Fire, which burned Oct. 8 and 9, 1871, killing more than 250, leaving 100,000 homeless and destroying more than 17,400 structures, according to the fire prevention association. It also commemorates the Peshtigo Fire, the most devastating forest fire in American history. The fire, which also occurred on Oct. 8, 1871, and roared through Northeast Wisconsin, burned down 16 towns, killed 1,152 people, and scorched 1.2 million acres before it was quashed.
This year, fire prevention week was held nationally Oct. 6 through 12, however, because of Ironman and other events scheduled in West Hawaii, the Hawaii County Fire Department opted to hold West Hawaii’s event a little late, Rosario said, noting that no matter what time of year, it’s always important to prevent fires.
Kailua-Kona’s Michelle and Matt Richardson accompanied their 5-year-old son, Connor, to the event to fulfill his fascination with firefighters and the Hawaii County Fire Department as well as to get him started learning about the importance of preventing fires. Earlier this week, Matt said, members of the department came to his class at the University of the Nations and since then he has been enamored by firefighters.
Connor hopes one day to become a firefighter himself, or a “superhero” as he calls them, so he can take charge and “cool down the fire and put it out.”
“He loves the fire trucks and helicopters,” added mother, Michelle. “We hope this will get him familiar with the authorities and personnel in the community and an overall awareness of what it is and what they do.”