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Learning not to burn
Annual fire prevention campaign starts next week
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Members of the Great Bend Fire Department discuss fire safety during a Fire Prevention Month school visit last year. This year’s campaign starts Monday.

The Great Bend Fire Department is teaming up with the National Fire Protection Association to promote this year’s Fire Prevention campaign, “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!” Next week’s campaign works to educate everyone about the small but important actions they can take to keep themselves and those around them safe.  

The GBFD will focus on the dangers associated with the kitchen, said Fire Inspector Mark Orth who coordinates the local effort. “The kitchen is often at the very center of family life, but leave cooking unattended in the kitchen and you could have a serious fire on your hands.” Cooking equipment is involved in roughly 150,000 home fires per year, and many of those fires start because people aren’t paying attention. 

NFPA statistics show that in 2017 U.S. fire departments responded to 357,000 home structure fires. These fires caused 2,630 fire deaths and 10,600 fire injuries. On average, seven people died in a fire in a home per day during 2012 to 2016.  

Of those, cooking equipment is involved in roughly 150,000 home fires per year, and many of those fires start because people aren’t paying attention, Orth said. “While a few minutes may not seem like much time to be away from what’s cooking, that’s all it takes to start a fire that could destroy your home and harm your family.” 

Members from the Great Bend Fire Department, and perhaps Sparky the Fire Dog, will visit first through sixth graders in each school in Great Bend between Monday, Oct. 7, and Tuesday, Oct. 22. They will demonstrate the proper way to cover a grease fire on the stove, proper use of a microwave and how to use a fire extinguisher. 

There will also be a skit and a fire safety trailer involved in the presentations. Depending on the age of the children, red fire hats, coloring books and activity books will given away as well.

Mpire Realty will offer free smoke detectors to sixth graders who fill out a survey and return it to school indicating their home has no detector. All students will receive a coupon for a free small frosty from Wendy’s.

“We are very excited to present this demonstration to your children but we understand that the demonstration may promote curiosity in some children,” Orth said. “We are asking that All parents spend a few minutes discussing the dangers of fire and review their home escape plans with their children.”

The bigger picture

“The number of fires show that home fires continue to pose a significant threat to safety,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “In a typical home fire, you may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. Escape planning and practice can help you make the most of the time you have, giving everyone enough time to get out.”

While NFPA and the Great Bend Fire Department are focusing on home fires, these messages apply to virtually any location.

“Situational awareness is a skill people need to use wherever they go,” Orth said. “No matter where you are, look for available exits. If the alarm system sounds, take it seriously and exit the building immediately.”

For more information, contact the GBFD at 620-793-4140. For more general information about Fire Prevention Week and home escape planning, visit

 Here are a few discussion points to review with your child:

• Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. 

• Are things that can burn (dish towels, curtains or paper) at least three feet away from the stove?

• If a grown-up must leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, do they turn off the stove?

• Do children and pets stay out of the “ kid-free” zone (three feet from the stove) when a grown-up is cooking?

• Does your family have working smoke alarms and a home fire escape plan?

• What number do you call for help?

• Do children play or use a lighter or match without an adult present?

• Containers should be opened slowly after they are removed from the microwave, as hot steam escaping from the container can cause painful burns.

• Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food.

• If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly and stay in the home.

Home fire escape planning should include the following:

• Drawing a map of each level of the home, showing all doors and windows.

• Going to each room and pointing to the two ways out.

• Making sure someone will help children, older adults, and people with disabilities wake up and get out.

• Teaching children how to escape on their own in case you cannot help them.

• Establishing a meeting place outside and away from the home where everyone can meet after exiting.

• Having properly installed and maintained smoke alarms.

• Pushing the smoke alarm button to start the drill.

• Practicing what to do in case there is smoke: Get low and go. Get out fast.

• Practicing using different ways out and closing doors behind you as you leave.

• Never going back for people, pets, or things.

• Going to your outdoor meeting place.

• Calling 9-1-1 or the local emergency number from a cell phone or a neighbor’s phone.

Smoke alarms

• Smoke alarms detect and alert people to a fire in the early stages. Smoke alarms can mean the difference between life and death in a fire.

• Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half.

• Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room, outside each separate sleeping area, and on every level of the home, including the basement.

• Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button.

• Make sure everyone in the home understands the sound of the smoke alarm and knows how to respond.


• Heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fires during the winter months.

• Space heaters are the type of equipment most often involved in home heating equipment fires.

• All heaters need space. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment.

• Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.

• Purchase and use only portable space heaters listed by a qualified testing laboratory.

• Have a qualified professional install heating equipment.

• Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional at least once a year.

If a wildfire is threatening your home:

• Create a plan for evacuation that includes alternate routes out of the danger area.

• Have pre-packed kits with essentials such as medicine, family records, credit cards, a change of clothing, and food and water.

• Create a family communication plan that designates an out-of-area friend or relative as a point of contact to act as a single source of communication.

• Prepare a plan for the care of pets and other animals.

• Sign up for wildfire alerts.

• Take steps to protect family, friends, or neighbors who have disabilities.

• Stay aware of local fire conditions. When told to evacuate, go promptly. If you feel unsafe, do not wait for an evacuation order—leave immediately.

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A Great Bend firefighter demonstrates what happens when water is tossed onto a stove top grease fire.