A Message from the Pawlet and West Pawlet Volunteer Fire Departments

Keeping Your Home Safe from Fire

Here are six simple steps that every resident of Pawlet can take today to help protect their family and property from fire:

1.  Install smoke detectors, and maintain them. Having a working smoke detector cuts your chance of dying in a house fire in half. Detectors should be installed on every level of the home, and outside of every sleeping area. Make sure your detectors are in good working order—they must be replaced after ten years, so check the date of manufacture (usually printed on the back) every time you change the battery. If you have no clue how old the detector is, it is time to replace it. If you’re being annoyed by frequent false alarms, try moving the detector to a better location instead of removing the batteries.

2.  Practice home escape drills. Having detectors to alert you to a fire are half the battle, knowing how to make a quick exit when the detector goes off is the other half. Find two ways out of every bedroom, and make sure you have a meeting place away from the home picked out so that you can be sure that everyone has gotten out safely. This is especially important for families with young children. Drawing a map together and then practicing your plan is a great way to help kids remember what to do when the detector goes off. Make sure everyone knows that once you get out, you must stay out. You should never re-enter a burning structure under any circumstances.

3.  Heat with care. In Vermont, heating appliances are a very common cause of structure fires. These fires are almost entirely preventable. Chimneys must be inspected regularly and cleaned as needed. In the case of wood stoves, inspecting the chimney each autumn and then after each cord of wood that goes through it is a good rule of thumb. If you don’t know how to clean and inspect a chimney, call a licensed chimney sweep for help. Keep in mind that wood embers can look “out” but remain hot enough to start a fire for up to four days. Shovel your ashes into a sealed metal container and place it away from your house to cool before disposing of them.

4.  Keep an extinguisher in your home. A type “ABC” dry chemical fire extinguisher should be stored in every kitchen. A small extinguisher does not cost a lot or take up much space, and it can keep a minor cooking mishap from becoming a major house fire. An extinguisher is a great thing to have in every workshop or garage, too.

5.  Use extension cords properly. Extension cords should only be used on a temporary basis and should be discarded if they are damaged in any way.  Extension cords should be rated for their intended use (indoor or outdoor) and meet or exceed the power needs they are being used for—never daisy-chain or overload extension cords and power strips. A cord that is hot to the touch is a sign of imminent danger. Do not run cords through walls or ceilings or under rugs, where fraying or overheating could go unnoticed, leading to a fire.

6.  Help us help you! The West Pawlet and Pawlet fire departments stand ready to help you when you need it, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. But can we find you? Can we get to you? We rely on property owners to post their address so that it is plainly visible from the road, even at night, and not obstructed by snow, brush, or decorations. Make sure everyone in your household knows the address (especially kids!) so that they can call for help if they ever need it. We also count on property owners to maintain plowed access to their property in the wintertime so that we can get a fire truck to your home if needed.

With thanks for your help in keeping our community safe,

Dale Decker, Chief, Pawlet Volunteer Fire Department
David Hosley, Chief, West Pawlet Volunteer Fire Department