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Peekskill Fire Chief: Use Common Sense To Prevent Fatal Fires

PEEKSKILL, NY – Fire Chief Lenny Varella wants residents to use caution and common sense to avoid tragedies like the one that killed five people in Stamford, Conn. on Christmas.

“What happened in Connecticut was a real tragedy, but it was a common sense [mistake],” Varella said. “The people cleaned out the fireplace and put the hot ashes is something that could melt.”

The chief cautioned residents to dispose of ashes from a fireplace or stove in a metal flame-resistant container and store them outside the house.

Varella also said that residents should have their oil burner checked and cleaned by an oil company professional and if they have a chimney they should have it cleaned every few years especially if the house is older, since cracks in the chimney could allow fires to start in the walls of the home.

Fire extinguishers should be used with caution and only by people who have been trained to use them, Varella said.

“I’ve seen people who had grease fires who hit it with a fire extinguisher incorrectly and the grease flies back and hits them and they have burns all over their face and hands,” Varella said. “Like I always say, the best thing to do is call the fire department. If you have insurance whatever damage it does the insurance company will come in and clean up and it will look like new again.”

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be in or near every bedroom of a house, he said, and batteries in the devices should be changed twice a year.

“We stress doing it when the [daylight savings] time changes, so in fall and the spring when they change their clocks,” Varella said.

The different brands of detectors offered don’t vary much in quality and are all tested before being sold, and since they are relatively inexpensive they should be changed at most every five years, he said.

“For me, for twenty bucks I’ll replace them every year,” Varella said. “Twenty dollars is well worth my life, my wife’s life and my children’s lives.”

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