Practice Fire Prevention, Officials Urge

By: Charles Daniel and Wade Phillips
By: Charles Daniel and Wade Phillips

Early Friday, the Meridian Fire Department responded to its third structure fire in 24 hours. A residence at the corner of 25th Avenue and 17th Street had flames coming from the second floor windows when firefighters arrived.

"Everybody was out when we got here. They told us there were two adults and two children that were in the house. They were all out when we arrived," said Chief Tim Miller of the Meridian Fire Department.

Everyone inside escaped without injury because of a concerned passerby. Tonya Ward was traveling along 25th Avenue when she smelled smoke. After spotting the fire, she called 911 and helped get the occupants out safely.

"We were going through this street and we saw the house on fire. I stopped and called 911 and then we ran up to the house to make sure nobody was in there. We got these two gentlemen out," Ward said.

The Key Chapter of the American Red Cross has responded to five fires in the last three days. Many of the fires could have been prevented through simple maintenance of heating units and if residents had exercised a little caution.

"Generally, the first real cold snap, we will have some fires," Miller said. "We had two pretty good structure fires last night and one today so far. We just need people to be careful when they are lighting heaters, candles, and things like that."

With the cold here to stay, now is the time to have your chimney and heating system cleaned and serviced.

Smoke detectors are a major tool in saving lives during a fire. Allie Fay Turner got smoke detectors checked in her home. It's a new issue for her. Turner says her recently deceased husband always dealt with these things, but now it's up to her.

"I'm newly single, I lost my husband, and I sleep soundly. I don't think I even dream," Turner said.

That's why having working smoke detectors all over her house is so important. And that's what Project ESCAPE is all about.

The newly developed project by Meridian's Fire Prevention Unit and the Meridian Housing Authority has the goal to make sure everyone has working detectors and a working knowledge of fire safety.

"It's just important that people are aware of fire safety and what they need to do to protect their home and family," said Ginger Hand of Project ESCAPE.

Here are a few of those things that fire safety experts say will make a difference:

Check your chimneys and heaters to make sure they're working properly.

If you have a space heater, keep it away from things like furniture and clothing.

Have an escape plan in case of fire. Make sure your family knows about it.

And maybe most importantly, make sure you have those working smoke detectors.

Turner is counting on her new detectors to help her in the event of a fire and she says she's especially wary of it because of the recent rash of fires.

"All that makes me more alert to the need of these," said Turner.

And, fire officials hope, it will make everyone else alert, too.

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