LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - In a matter of days the county saw four fatal fires, one badly injuring a man, and then two additional fires.
"I have never seen something like this in all my years. It's just unheard of," Sheffield Township Volunteer Fire Chief Bill Huffer said.
In a county that sees about one fatal fire a year, Tippecanoe saw four only days apart. For that reason nearly 15 fire chiefs from around the county came together to discuss ways to educate the public about fire safety and prevention.
"We've had multiple fires with multiple deaths and we've looked at all of them and we said, 'What's the common factor in these fires?' And it's the human factor," Lafayette Fire Chief Richard Doyle said.
Human factors can be anything from fires ignited from smoking, cooking or overloading electrical outlets. A common one is smoke detectors with dead batteries, or a lack of smoke detectors altogether.
"You can have a smoke detector, you can have an alarm system, you can have every piece of equipment, but it comes down to the human factor," Doyle said. "You have to maintain that equipment."
Checking your smoke alarms once a month is just one way you can help make sure you're family stays safe in case of a fire.
While smoke detectors are key in getting out alive, safe practice prevents fires from ever starting.
Informing the public on ways to prevent fires is what firefighters are focusing on now more than ever.
The majority of calls firefighters respond to are medical calls. Doyle said that's just one way fire departments will be able to reach out to people in the community about fire safety.
"If we're in your home already, can we help you be fire-safe? Can we check your smoke detectors for you? Can we assist you? Do you need a battery?" Doyle said.
"Eighty percent of our runs are medical. We need to be checking smoke detectors when we're there on medical calls, maybe we need to go through the churches," Huffer said. "Churches are large captive groups that we can work with to promote fire safety for us."
Huffer said reaching out to large groups of people to talk about the importance of properly working smoke detectors and how to plan escape routes will be the focus of fire departments in the years to come.
Research shows working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half. More people die from smoke inhalation than from burns.
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