With many adults going back to the office while kids stay at home for virtual school, Rio Rancho Fire Rescue Department is encouraging parents to teach their children fire safety.
RRFR fire inspector Lt. Jessica Duron-Martinez said the issue is particularly timely since a small house fire started while a child was home alone Wednesday. A cat knocked over an item into a candle burning in the front entryway.
“The 11-year-old was educated by the parents, thankfully, and called 911,” Duron-Martinez said.
The home was equipped with a fire extinguisher, which a police officer used to put out the flames before firefighters arrived. No one was hurt.
Duron-Martinez said children shouldn’t burn candles without parents home because the open flame is too dangerous.
To help families learn about fire safety, RRFR will post information on social media in coming weeks.
“It’s important for both the parents in the home and the kids to get involved,” said Battalion Chief Adam Arrossa.
Adults should test the batteries in their home’s smoke detectors once a month and change the batteries twice a year. Arrossa recommends changing the batteries when changing clocks to or from Daylight Saving Time.
He also said adults should make sure all smoke detectors are interconnected so that if one goes off, they all do. Building codes require that setup in newer homes, but older houses may not have it.
Duron-Martinez said a house should have smoke detectors in every bedroom, outside every sleeping area and on every floor.
Arrossa recommends developing and practicing an emergency evacuation plan that includes multiple exit options from every room. Just as schools have fire drills, so should families, he said.
It’s also important to decide where family members should meet after evacuation, he said. It needs to have a phone so they can call 911.
Once a family meets, they can see if everyone is out of the house and let arriving first responders know.
Duron-Martinez said children need to know never to go back inside a house they’ve left during a fire.
“Once you get out, you stay out,” she said.
Arrossa said parents should make sure children know how their smoke alarm sounds, so they aren’t afraid but know to leave the house. Kids also need to know not to hide during a fire.
When Duron-Martinez was in elementary school, a classmate died in a fire after hiding in a closet.
“So I do take it very seriously,” she said.
She said kids should know to call 911, but to only use it in emergencies. Once they’re in kindergarten, they should be able to recite their address to a dispatcher and explain what the emergency is.
Also, Duron-Martinez said cooking mishaps are the leading cause of home fires. Children shouldn’t cook when their parents aren’t home, she said.
Even when parents are home, she said, small children should be kept 3 feet from the stove and oven, and the handles of pots and pans shouldn’t be left facing outward, where a child could pull them down.
Arrossa said he teaches his children not to play in the kitchen, because he doesn’t want to step on a Lego while carrying a pot of boiling water.
Since firefighters don’t expect to be able to conduct fire-prevention programs in schools this year, Duron-Martinez and Arrossa recommend that parents visit sparkyschoolhouse.org, for a variety of fire-safety education materials for various age groups, or rrnm.gov/4479/Home-Fire-Escape-Plan, which has information on preparing an evacuation plan.