‘Have two ways out’ to escape fire, experts say

ENCINITAS — There is no fire season when it comes to house fires. 

Each year, the Encinitas Fire Department responds to numerous residential fire calls.

Not every call turns out to be a house fire, explained Darrin Ward, deputy chief of operations for the fire department. But since the beginning of this year, firefighters have responded to a dozen of those calls, which turned out to be the real thing.

Encinitas Deputy Fire Chief Mike Daigle said that one of the things that still surprises and disappoints firefighters is when they come to a call and the smoke alarms either aren’t installed or there’s no battery in them, or they’re not working in some way. “And that’s one of the reasons we do these prevention things,” he said.

Daigle is referring to fire prevention week, which began Oct. 7 and will conclude Oct. 13 with an open house at Encinitas’ Fire Station No. 5. Fire prevention week is an annual education program developed by NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), a nonprofit that works to improve fire safety and prevention.

Since 1922 fire prevention week has been an annual event, keying in on a specific theme to help educate the public.

This year’s theme is, “Have Two Ways Out,” which invites families to develop and know the two escape routes should a fire break out in the home.

“It’s always about education,” said Senior Deputy Fire Marshall Anita Pupping. “Whether it be children or adults it doesn’t matter. I think we always have to remind ourselves to test our smoke detectors.”

Daigle said it seemed like fires started a lot of the time for the same reason. “It’s the reason any fire starts,” he said. “It’s just the human factor,” but he added that a lot of fires can be started from electrical problems.

Some of the other leading causes of home fires come from unattended cooking, heating equipment, smoking and candles, according to the NFPA.

“It’s a cliché, they say smoke alarms save lives, but they really do,” Daigle said. “But it surprises me the number of times we go on scene and like I say, they’re either removed or they’re not there at all or they’re there and there’s no battery in them,” he said.

“That’s one of things that I remember more than once, I’ve seen melted smoke alarms and no battery in them, and so you know it’s been hot in there and you wonder…how it came to be that way and how different things would have turned out if it had actually worked.”

With station tours being offered for the fire prevention week event, parents and kids have a chance to fully explore the fire engines and fire house; kids are able to try on some of the firefighting gear.

Part of that experience of touring the station and trying on the gear is kids becoming familiar with the firefighters.

“We don’t want children hiding in closets…if firefighters respond,” Pupping said. “We want them to be familiar with that sound,” she said.

A lot of what Pupping hears while she’s on educational tours is that the kids get scared of the sounds and they plug their ears and hide. Pupping said that that is the reason for the fire drills, to allow kids to get used to the sounds.

“I think that’s key, not to be afraid…of the firefighters,” she said.

Fire Prevention Week Open House

Where: Fire Station No. 5, 540 Balour Drive, Encinitas
When: Oct. 13, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.