PARKERSBURG - Area fire departments are encouraging residents to prepare and be safe during National Fire Prevention Week.
The national movement will run from Sunday through Saturday and encourage people of all ages to create a fire escape plan and take other measures to protect themselves and loved ones by making their homes safer, according to the United States Fire Administration (USFA).
"We (the Parkersburg Fire Department) are trying to educate people to have and practice an escape plan," said Chief Inspector Capt. Tim Flinn.
Flinn said many households that have a fire escape plan have not practiced it as a family.
In an effort to make sure area residents understand what they need to do in a fire and how to do it, the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department station on Washington Boulevard will host an open house from 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 13.
"We will be teaching fire prevention and safety and giving away door prizes," said Belpre Fire Chief Bob Frank. "This is our contribution for Fire Prevention Week."
As part of this week and the department's event, Frank is asking everyone to change the batteries in their smoke detectors/alarms; if that is not possible, firefighters with the department will come to homes to help.
"Smoke detectors are the best way to know that something is wrong and if they don't work it can mean the worst," Frank said. "Everyone should change the batteries when the times change each spring and fall and if someone cannot do that on their own, call the department and someone will come to your home to help.
"We would rather be preventing fires by checking and installing smoke detectors than fighting the actual fires," he said.
Most area fire departments have smoke detectors available for those who need them; some may charge a small fee while others do not.
"We keep smoke detectors at the station and anyone who needs them can come and we will give them out," Frank said.
Flinn said as of Oct. 1 the Parkersburg Fire Department responded to 122 fires in 2012. As a department this year, firefighters have responded to 30 structure fires, 11 vehicle fires, 43 trash fires and 38 brush or miscellaneous fires.
Officials have issued 52 burning permits and 87 smoke detectors this year.
During this week, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and the USFA are encouraging individuals and families to create a fire escape plan with two ways to get out of the home.
People are encouraged to protect their homes and those they love from emergencies by making their homes safer through planning and equipment.
Hundreds of thousands of fires occur every year across the country while injuring and killing thousands of people and causing billions of dollars of damage, according to the USFA. In 2010, a total of 362,100 residential fires resulted in 13,275 injuries, 2,555 deaths and more than $6.6 billion in property loss.
In 2011, the Ohio State Fire Marshal reported 18,449 structure fires resulting in 127 civilian and one firefighter fatalities. The total of 40,497 fires throughout Ohio, which included structure, vehicle and other fires, caused more than $288 million in damage.
Between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012, the West Virginia State Fire Marshal's Office reported 7,232 fires, including 2,002 residential fires. These fires led to the investigation of 64 fire-related deaths in what have been determined mostly preventable fires as the proper use of operational smoke alarms, home escape planning and fire sprinklers would have saved most of these lives, said Heather Bostic with the public education division of the state fire marshal's office.
West Virginia routinely ranks in the top 12 states with the highest fire deaths per million in the country.