Local fire depts. clown around to teach kids, families fire safety

MERIDIAN, Idaho (KBOI) - With the weather getting prematurely cool, many of us are switching on the heat.

Local fire departments want to make sure your kids have learned the basics of fire safety around the home. However, because it is a serious topic, they say learning to be fire-wise should be a family affair.

Treasure Valley firefighters gathered at the Meridian Speedway to teach youngsters about fire safety, using clowns, puppets, songs and dances. From a distance, it would look like they were just clowning around. But the fire department had a very important lesson plan for kids, but also said parents should take note too

"Often times we get called to situations where the kids were actually the ones that notify their parents of the situation or were the ones that knew what to do more than the parents did," Meridian Fire Department Captain Chris Verkerk said.

Verkerk said fire crews are generally busier in the summer months, but that it's because of wildfires and other outdoor fires. In the fall and winter, he said they tend to respond to a high number of indoor fire calls.

"Everybody is kicking on their furnaces this time of year, and we start getting calls for smoke in a structure," Verkerk said.

He said most of the time, furnaces are to blame, but that in the colder months, wood fires and space heaters can also make you vulnerable.

"Where we run into problems is where the heaters are too close to burnable objects, or where there are multiple heaters plugged into the same circuit or using extension cord," Verkerk said. "That creates an overload in the electrical circuit and you can have a fire."

If you use a space heater, firefighters say to make sure it is UL listed. Look for the label on the heater or on the device's cord.

Verkerk says another common mistake people make is leaving their stoves and other cooking appliances unattended, which results in cooking fires. He adds that candles are a constant concern, and always result in a number of house calls.

He says the best way to stay safe is to not take any chances.

"If you can reduce any use of open flame inside the home that's a biggie," Verkerk said.

Other items on your checklist for winter should include checking and servicing your furnace, installing a carbon monoxide meter in your home, and checking the batteries in your smoke detectors.