Our View: Fire safety starts with education

‘Tis the season for holiday cheer, Christmas spirit … and a sharp upswing in structure fires.

As the weather turns colder and people add extra heating devices and holiday decorations that run on electricity, emergency responders see an increase in fire calls.

Winchester Fire-EMS and others had a busy stretch last week with a large fire at Contech in the industrial park and then a house fire on Highland Avenue just a few hours later.

We applaud all the men and women who helped fight these fires and others, often amid far from ideal conditions.

The American Red Cross offers these tips to be prepared for a home fire:

— Install the right number of smoke alarms. Test them once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year.

— Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one.

— Ensure that all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home and know the family meeting spot outside of your home.

— Establish a family emergency communications plan and ensure all household members know who to contact if they cannot find one another.

— Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year. Press the smoke alarm test button or yell “fire“ to alert everyone that they must get out.

— Make sure everyone knows how to call 911.

— Teach household members to stop, drop and roll if their clothes should catch on fire.

Just as important, the disaster relief organization encourages everyone to develop these fire-safe habits:

— Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as space heaters.

— Smoking materials are the leading cause of residential fire deaths in the United States. If you smoke, take precautions: Smoke outside; choose fire-safe cigarettes; never smoke in bed, when drowsy or medicated, or if anyone in the home is using oxygen.

— Use deep, sturdy ashtrays and douse cigarette and cigar butts with water before disposal.

— Talk to children regularly about the dangers of fire, matches and lighters and keep them out of reach.

— Turn portable heaters off when you leave the room or go to sleep.

— Never leave a burning candle unattended, even for a minute.

Clark County has an amazing group of individuals willing to answer the call of duty, but we can all do our part to fight fires before they occur.