Drop In Temperature Brings Increase In Fire Calls

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

As the temperature drops, the work load for firefighters increases.

This week has been busy for area firefighters. Not all of those fires can be blamed on heating equipment, but the Wichita Fire Department said Thursday it is not unusual for crews to have busier days when the temperature drops.

"Winter weather like this increases our fire load," said Battalion Chief Sid Newby at the scene of a west Wichita house fire Thursday afternoon. "Usually, during the winter months, due to heating and electrical issues."

Newby said that usual increase can be controlled by some simple, yet easy-to-overlook common sense safety measures.

"Space heaters, anything like that, make sure they're the proper distance away from any combustibles," he said.

Malfunctioning heating equipment is blamed for a Thursday afternoon fire at an apartment complex near Harry and Webb Road.

"We had a furnace that was, in this case, operating too hot," said Wichita Fire Capt. Carlos Rodriguez. "It had shorted out and we were able to control the power and extinguish the fires that were present inside."

Fire fighters were able to keep that fire contained because the people who live in the affected apartment were home and because a neighbor also called 911.

"They had a little bit of smoke, they believed," Rodriguez said. "They thought they had an odor and they called 911, so they didn't hesitate. Had they not been home, it would have been a different story."

While it will not prevent every problem, Rodriguez said the best chance of preventing heater- or furnace-related fires is to have furnaces checked annually to make sure they will be able to handle the heavy work loads that come with extremely cold weather.

"If we could back up and go to the fall, we always strongly recommend get the furnace inspected," he said. "Have it checked yearly; have it checked in the spring. Replace your filters. That should be done on a monthly basis."

Rodriguez also said never hesitate to call 911 if a problem is suspected.

"If something doesn't feel right, it's probably not right," he said.

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