LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - Firefighters have been out and about this week teaching the community about the dangers of house fires and the importance of being prepared in case one breaks out.
It's National Fire Prevention Week, which has been observed in America since 1925. It runs annually the week of October 9 in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which killed more than 250 people and left more than 100,000 people homeless back in 1871.
Despite many advancements in safety technology, Lawton Fire Marshal Mark Mitchell said house fires today actually spread much quicker and are much more dangerous than they were in the past. Mitchell said that's thanks in part to the lightweight construction materials used to build homes today and the synthetics now used in carpet and interior fabrics.
"When they burn, they burn rapidly, they generate smoke rapidly. Smoke is the number one killer. The newer synthetics create a much heavier, denser, acrid, toxic smoke. So, it's dangerous to the occupants and the first responders," Mitchell said.
As we head into the winter months there are some things you can do to help protect your home from fires. If you are using a space heater, don't leave any loose fabrics near it because they can be caught on fire. Also, try to not overload one socket with those space heaters or things like electric blankets. But, sometimes accidents do happen, and if one does, Mitchell said there's one thing that can go a long way in saving your life and your home.
"Smoke detectors, smoke detectors, smoke detectors. You've got to have working smoke detectors in your home. They'll protect you, give you an early notification in time to get up and get out before it's too late. The smoke is usually what takes people down and causes the fatalities," Mitchell said.
Mitchell said you should also have a fire extinguisher on hand and a plan to escape your residence if a fire breaks out.
"No matter where you're at in that home, whether you're a child, an elderly person or anybody else in the home, they should know if that doors blocked, I can go out this door or that window. Once they get out, they should have a meeting place outside," Mitchell said.
The Lawton Fire Department will be at "Coffee and Cars" on Saturday, October 14 as part of Fire Prevention Week. They'll have trucks and a fire safety house on hand. That will be at 38th and Cache Road from 8 a.m. until noon.
You can find more information about Fire Prevention Week here.