June 16th, 2024

Fire prompts officials to issue safety warning

By Lethbridge Herald on December 22, 2022.

Ry Clarke – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A fire earlier this week at a home which sent an occupant to hospital in critical condition is prompting fire officials to remind residents to take precautions to stay safe during the holiday season.

On Monday, Lethbridge Fire and EMS crews responded to a residential structure fire in the 2400 block of 20 Street North around 6:40 p.m. 

Four stations responded to the fire and managed to extinguish it after 90 minutes. One individual was rescued from the structure and was transported to Chinook Regional Hospital in critical condition. 

Fire investigators estimate damages are around $500,000 and concluded their investigation on the house fire on Dec. 21, deeming it as accidental, while issuing a warning from the Fire Prevention Bureau reminding residents that space heaters are a temporary source of heat and should not be left unattended, and to keep them clear of any combustible materials.

“This was an accident, and obviously it wasn’t done on purpose. But if we can conscientiously realize that these appliances are not meant for permanent heating, they are there for temporary,” said Heath Wright, Chief Fire Marshal. “Make sure that when you turn it on when you are using it, and make sure that you turn it off, if not unplug it, when you are finished using it. One of the things that we noticed, too, is people like plugging in these appliances into power bars and extension cords that are 50-feet long. I would not suggest that at all. They pull lots of amperage, these appliances, and therefore I would suggest that we make sure that we plug them directly into an outlet and not into an extension cord or power bar. A lot of times these power bars that you can buy sometimes aren’t CSA or ULC approved.”

Stressing safety to the public during holiday times, Fire and EMS want to caution safety around this time of year. 

“Everybody loves candles during this time of year. Makes the house all nice and cozy and warm. But if we can make sure that those candles are in non-combustible containers like glass, and make sure they are always attended and always blow them out before leaving,” said Wright. “The other thing, too, is Christmas trees. Real trees are nice, but make sure that they have enough moisture and they are green trees and not dried. The same with the lighting that is around those trees, making sure that there is no shorting in the wiring and make sure that the wires are not exposed.”

During the holiday season, crews have to work while battling both the heat from fires and cold from the weather. 

“We use water to put the fire out, water freezes rather quickly when it is -30, -40 C. So that causes a challenge for us. Once we start using our fire lines, our hoses, we have to keep them running. If we stop, they are going to freeze and we won’t be able to turn them on again,” said Rob Chollak, platoon chief with the fire department. “Other complications we run into are our safety equipment that we wear, our air breathing devices, they can freeze up, they get foggy. We have to keep switching them out to put new ones on. It causes a lot of different problems in the cold.”

Lethbridge Fire and EMS are reminding citizens to stay safe and warm this holiday season, but also to remember safety and take precautions when dealing with extreme weather. 

“With the Christmas season comes different events that do increase the call volume for us,” said Chollak. “There are a lot more calls for our services in regards to crashes, exposure, and fires. There seems to be an increase in fires over the holiday season. Different heating appliances, candles… it does cause more calls for us.”

Hoping everyone is able to stay safe during the holiday season, Fire and EMS hope everyone takes safety precautions to avoid accidents. 

“During Christmas time I think everybody is in a rush, everybody wants to get everything done,” said Wright. “Slow down, and try to be conscientious of your actions and make sure that everybody’s safe at the end of the day.” 

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