Recent Fires have GI Firefighters Stressing Safety


Put to the test, Grand Island firefighters say they're better prepared than ever before.But a series of fires has them asking the public for help to prevent fires.

Firefighters thought a recent apartment house fire would be a good test of their new foam system, but instead they saved a furry life, giving oxygen to a cat after another succumbed to the smoke.

"It's another family member, and we like to take care of our family in Grand Island," Chief Cory Schmidt said at the scene.

But they'd rather prevent families from suffering through fires, and they've seen an unusually high number lately.

Schmidt said, "We've been real busy."

Three garage fires, a mobile home fire, and an apartment house have kept firefighters on the run, but there's no common thread.

The cold can be a factor, when they see people overload extension cords with space heaters. They've got a rule of thumb for that.

"If the extension cord is smaller in diameter than the cord on the appliance, it's too small," Schmidt said.

Grand Island typically responds to one structure fire a week, so while people picture firefighters in their bunker gear going into burning buildings, in reality, they spent hours in the classroom.

"Training, training, training," Schmidt said. "A lot of times it's very stressful and when that training makes that task second nature, it makes it easier on everyone. It is easy to get excited and overwhelmed at times so that training keeps us focused."

And it's not just fires, but medical calls, haz–mat, car crashes, and more.

The chief said, "The fire department gets called for just about anything other people can't handle and we are expected to be good at it."

A study suggested a new command structure, with shift supervisors, which are in place now.

And the department is adding technology like tablets in the trucks with information about the locations they respond to.

But they also believe in simple technology, saying smoke detectors save lives.

But if the unthinkable happens, the chief says his men and women are well–prepared, and go above and beyond to save lives, even the family pet.

"I think about any one of them would do anything if asked, very good organization, I'm proud to be there chief," he said.A

bout those smoke detectors, they say when you change the clock this weekend, don't forget to change your batteries.

Safety Tips:

• Limit the use of extension cords. Extension cords need to be rated for the item. Unplug extension cords when not in use. • Don't overload electrical circuits. Never use multi-plug adapters or exceed the rating of circuits or outlets. Contact an electrician if unsure.
• Allow proper clearance around water heaters, furnaces, and wood burning stoves. A minimum of 36 inches of clearance between these items and combustibles is recommended.
• Have all HVAC systems--furnaces, fire places, etc.-- inspected annually by a qualified person.
• Candles need at least 12 inches of clearance from combustibles and should be placed on a noncombustible surface whenever possible.
• Properly dispose of cigarettes. Always place in a deep, sturdy ashtray. Empty ashtrays in a metal container filled with water or sand. Never dump in a trash can.
• Make sure smoke detectors are working properly. Smoke detectors are proven to save lives. Every bedroom, hallways outside bedrooms, and a least one on each level of a home are the recommended minimum. Test detectors at least once a month and replace batteries twice a year. A good time to change smoke detector batteries is when changing the time of clocks in observance of daylight savings time.