WASHINGTON — Saturday was a busy 24 hours for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. Not only did they battle 12 fires within that period, but six of those blazes were significant enough to require extra personnel and resources to get those them under control.
Dozens of people have also been displaced from their homes in the past few days because of these incidents.
As a result of this spate of weekend fires and others just before the weekend, Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein is reminding residents to not be complacent when it comes to fire prevention.
Goldstein said it is crucial to adhere to Maryland’s new smoke alarm law which takes effect on Jan. 1.
“That 10-year sealed battery detector is very critical, because no longer will the occupant, the resident, the renter, the homeowner be able to remove the battery to defeat it if they accidentally had a smoke situation in the kitchen,” Goldstein said. “They’ll always have … that sentry on duty and ensure that when time of need comes that they have that ability to have early detection and early warning for that smoke situation.”
Meanwhile, as the frigid temperatures continue, Goldstein wants residents to have solid safety ideas in mind not only during cold spells, but throughout the year through regular home maintenance.
If fireplace use is part of your heating plan, Goldstein said to remember that cleaning and inspecting the chimney and flue are key preventive measures.
Montgomery County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security has issued a Cold Emergency Alert that will run from 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve until 9 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
It’s likely some residents will keep warm by stoking fireplace fires.
“As we are in this cold snap, be very safe and cautious with your fireplaces, with your heat stoves, with your space heaters,” Goldstein told reporters at a news conference Sunday at Travilah Fire Station 32.
One of Saturday’s fires was sparked from fireplace ashes stored in a plastic bag inside a home in North Potomac. Goldstein said it’s important to properly discard ashes to prevent them from flaming up and setting homes ablaze.
“No matter how long it was since you had your last fire, no matter how cold you think they are, put them in a metal can,” Goldstein said. He said metal ashcans come with lids and are available at home improvement stores.
Goldstein said that once those ashes are inside the can, it’s important to “put that metal can away from your garage, away from your shed, away from your back deck so that it is no longer a threat.”
Goldstein also reminds residents of one of their fire prevention mantras.
“Close the door before you doze,” Goldstein said.
“Those doors are very much capable of separating and having that fire separation and smoke-heat separation to provide you a defendable, as well as a survivable space in your apartment, in your bedroom for quite a bit of time,” Goldstein said.