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SPECIAL REPORT

GUARDIAN reporter Aldwith Davies talks to the firefighters at Ammanford station and gives some pointers on how to avoid a blaze in your home in a two-page feature coinciding with Fire Safety Week.

PREVENTION BETTER THAN THE CURE

SAY the word ‘fireman' and most people picture a helmeted figure on a ladder, hose in hand, directing water onto a burning building.

But in reality the work of a fireman involves far more,

And one of those vital tasks is fire prevention,

Shops, schools, factories, pubs, old people's homes – these and many more buildings are checked to make sure that safety measures are being adhered to.

“It's no good having a fire door if it's been propped open,” says divisional officer David Bush.

Another part of the fireman's duty is to check hydrants – the source of water supplies used for fire fighting.

There are also daily drills so each team member is familiar with every single piece of equipment on the fire engine.

More and more dangerous chemicals are being transported by road and collisions can cause spillages.

Firemen have to be able to identify chemicals and know how to deal with them

“The job is more technical than most people realise,” said Mr. Bush.

“While there have been many changes, water is still the cheapest, most convenient and most often used fire extinguishing medium.

 

FIREMEN DEAL WITH ALARMING RISE IN EMERGENCY CALLS

THE NUMBER of call outs Ammanford Fire Brigade receive annually has been rising at an alarming rate over the last five years.

In 1987 the Ammanford firemen responded to 278 calls, these included car and property fires, road traffic accidents, grass and hedge fires, chimney fires and false alarms.

The following year the figure increased to 300, but by 1989 the number of calls shot up by more than a third to 399.

In 1990 there was another rise to 429, and officers say the number of calls so far this year suggest that total could be topped again.

HOAXERS PLAGUE TOWN'S FIREMEN

THE number of emergency calls attended by fire brigades in England and Wales has increased from 685,980 in 1986 to 949,500 in 1990.

This figure includes special service calls such as road traffic accidents and false alarms.

The number of calls for the Dyfed County Fire Brigade for the same period has risen from 4,523 to 5,631.

While Ammanford Fire Station attended 160 fires, 79 special service calls (Car accidents etc) and 106 false alarms.


YOUR HOME IS A FIRE RISK – OFFICIAL

HOMES are the biggest fire risk – and that's official.

The information comes from Dyfed Fire Brigade's Divisional Fire Prevention Officer, Mr. David Bush.

Common sense can prevent fires and negligence can lead to tragedy – that's his message during Fire Prevention Week.

“We have no power of entry to private dwellings but there's a lot that householders can do to make their homes safe,” he told the Guardian.

The main cause of a kitchen fire is still the chip pan.

“The fat overheats, curtains and chip-board units quickly catch fire and you end up with a major incident,” he said.

His advice is:

  • Never leave a chip pan unattended but if it is on fire throw a damp towel on it and turn off the gas or electric.
  • Don't be tempted to lift the towel or the air will get to it and it will ignite again.
  • Never lift a burning chip pan and never put water on it or the burning fat will explode.
  • One relatively cheap device which can save lives is a smoke detector.
  • Todays view (2005) is not to attempt to extinguish a chip pan fire - but GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL US OUT. Those set in the old ways and still want to have a go? should follow the above advice.

“We are continually advising people to fit them and this week surveys are being undertaken at Ammanford, Llanelli and Carmarthen to see how many there are. They would make ideal Christmas presents for elderly people,” said Mr. Bush.

Smoke detectors are now given free (2005) Just call at your local fire station or contact Fire Brigade Headquarters.

He points out that they should be tested weekly by pressing the button or panel and that a short bleep every now and then means the battery needs changing.

Another danger zone in the home is the three-piece suite stuffed with flammable foam which gives off toxic fumes when alight.

“New furniture has foam which is a lot more resistant to fire but it's going to take years for the old foam to pass through the system. It's the chemicals in the smoke which is the killer.

“It's difficult for many families to buy new furniture when they are struggling to put food in their mouths.”

Another piece of advice is – get out of the house quickly enough when a fire starts. SEE CFS

“People try and deal with it themselves instead of summoning help. Elderly people in particular tend to be too independent. They don't realise how quickly domestic fires spread or how fatal smoke and fumes can be.

Other hints are:

  • Return electric blankets to manufactures every three years for servicing.
  • Never leave portable heaters in a draught or where they can be knocked over.
  • Never refill paraffin heaters indoors or when they are alight.
  • Keep guards around open fires and don't leave newspapers or clothes nearby.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children.
  • Stub cigarettes out properly.
  • Never smoke in a chair or bed if you're likely to doze off.
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