Parkersburg fire chief discusses fire safety

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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - After some recent house fires, Parkersburg Fire Chief Jason Matthews offers some advice on how to keep your home safe.

More than one recent fire involved what Matthews calls ‘a heavy fire load,’ meaning there was a lot of flammable material stacked throughout the burning structures. Heavy fire loads make fighting a fire more difficult, and they make searching a burning structure more difficult.

“So a lot of places we encounter, it might just be a small path and combustible materials just stacked up on both sides. It makes it difficult to do a thorough search. If we get a call and it says there possibly could be someone inside, that’s going to slow down our search. And when we add all those combustible materials to the fire, it takes longer to extinguish,” said Chief Matthews.

Before a fire happens, he says that extra material can block vents, making homes colder and inspire greater use of space heaters, which need plenty of space.

And speaking of the cold, Chief Matthews says there’s usually an uptick in fires around December, January, and February.

“Being in the homes more, heating the homes. You know, when you’re in your home, you could be smoking in there or you could have candles lit, using more power while you’re there, so you could possibly use extension cords,” said Chief Matthews.

To stay safe, Chief Matthews pushes for proper use of smoke alarms.

“You know, they do activate quickly. That’s going to give you the time to get out. If they’re not installed or not installed properly, they’re no good,” said Matthews.

He says for those who need them, the department has a free alarm and installation program for those who qualify.

“I would just say if you have a question about fire safety, you know, or if you need smoke alarms, you need help changing a battery in a smoke alarm or want to know if they’re placed in a proper place or proper position, just call us here at the fire department. We can definitely have a truck come out and answer the questions for you, help you out,” said Chief Matthews.

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