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Friday, November 25, 2016

Fire officials: Be careful this season

By DEAN SHALHOUP
Staff Writer

A spate of recent house fires - including an early-morning Nashua blaze on Wednesday caused by improperly disposed smoking materials - have prompted local and regional officials to ramp up their safety message as the holiday season gets underway.

While the Nashua fire, which broke out around 2 a.m. at 38 McKean St., was halted by firefighters before it could do any serious damage, it illustrated just how sneaky and unpredictable fire can be. ...

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A spate of recent house fires - including an early-morning Nashua blaze on Wednesday caused by improperly disposed smoking materials - have prompted local and regional officials to ramp up their safety message as the holiday season gets underway.

While the Nashua fire, which broke out around 2 a.m. at 38 McKean St., was halted by firefighters before it could do any serious damage, it illustrated just how sneaky and unpredictable fire can be.

The resident who reported the McKean Street fire told officials he snuffed out a cigarette on the porch railing, and when a gust of wind blew it off the porch, he went inside, Nashua Fire Rescue Deputy Chief George Walker said.

But the butt had instead landed "in an area next to a (porch) post ... and ignited the dry wood inside," he added.

When the resident smelled smoke, he went out and found flames climbing up a corner of the porch, and called firefighters.

Meanwhile, representatives of the American Red Cross New Hampshire and Vermont Region have responded over the last few days to a series of multifamily house fires across the two-state region, according to agency spokesman Lloyd Ziel.

On Monday and Tuesday alone, Ziel said, the Red Cross sent teams of volunteers to Manchester, Concord and Rochester, and to White River Junction and Proctor, Vt., where house fires left nearly 30 people without a place to live.

The "rash of recent fires is a sad reminder that extra care is always a good idea" when it comes to holiday season fire safety, Ziel said in a statement.

Just two "simple steps," he said, can go a long way toward preventing not only fires that damage property, but more importantly, those that result in injury or death.

First, smoke detectors: They should be installed on every level, inside bedrooms and outside other sleeping areas. Test them each month, and replace batteries at least once a year, or when needed.

Second, develop a fire-escape plan and hold occasional fire drills to familiarize all family members with the plan.

The plan, Ziel said, should include two ways to get out of every room, and have a designated place to meet once outside.

Consider escape ladders, he said, for second-floor apartments or homes with upstairs bedrooms.

Anyone who needs smoke detectors, or who knows someone who does, can apply for a free installation or battery check through the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign initiative by calling 1-800-464-6692 or visiting www.redcross.org/nhvt.

In the Nashua fire, meanwhile, the resident had slowed the fire with a dry chemical extinguisher, Walker said. Firefighters arrived to find smoke coming from the porch and found that flames had extended up through the hollow post and into the ceiling.

Crews quelled the flames in short order, Walker said, then opened parts of the partitions above the ceiling to make sure the fire hadn't spread.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DeanS.