The Commerce Journal

April 4, 2013

Fire Chief: Proper house maintenance may save lives

By Joseph Hamrick
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — Most house fires could have been prevented if the owners had done proper maintenance, according to Commerce Fire Chief Jack Bernie.

Bernie said citizens should pay heed to the warning signs of electrical and gas problems in their house.

“At the first sign of chest pains, you go to a qualified doctor,” he said. “So with the first sign of an electrical problem, you should call a qualified elecrician.”

Common ways a house catches fire he said are a lack of electrical and gas systems upkeep. If a breaker is constantly tripping and fuzes blowing, or you’re having problems with your stove or other gas and elecrical utilities, those are signs you need to get someone qualified to look at what’s wrong, Bernie said.

“I always have people tell me, ‘well my 20 amp breaker kept flipping so I got a 30 amp’,” he said. “That’s why your breaker is flipping, because it is telling you something is wrong. The electrical gives signs for you.”

As of Jan. 1, 2013, state law requires any rental home to have a smoke detector in every sleeping room of the house provided for by the landlord.

A working smoke detector is the difference between life and death, especially with a home that has newer furniture, Bernie said.

“Fires spread more quickly, with thicker smoke, in newer homes because of the synthetic material,” he said. “The quicker you’re awakened in a fire situation, the better your chances of surviving are.”

For the elderly and disabled, Bernie said the fire department will come out for free and replace the batteries and make sure the fire alarms are functioning properly.

Bernie listed a situation where their efforts in the community saved a life.

“There was a fire in the Norris Community last year with an elderly lady in a wheelchair,” he said. “She had a smoke alarm that went off so she was able to call someone to help get her out in time. We had installed the batteries in her detector not two weeks ago.”

Currently Bernie is working on developing a burn ordinance for Commerce, which currently does not have one on record.

“You can’t burn in an incorporated city unless they have a burning ordinance in place that has guidelines,” he said. “I’m trying to get a very restrictive ordinance in place to where ceremonial fires, chimineas and land clearing for development can be done in the city.”

According to Bernie, the ordinance should be presented for a vote in the April or May Commerce City Council meeting.