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Firefighters offer safety tips after recent tragedy

December 16, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

erinc@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Careless smoking is one of the leading causes of fatal fires nationally, said Mike Weller, Life Safety Educator for Hagerstown Fire Department.

"It is so deadly," Weller said of careless smoking, listed Thursday by the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office as the cause of a Sunday fire in Keedysville that killed three area teenagers.

Weller said if people do smoke, they should do so as safely as possible by smoking outside. Ashes should be discarded into a covered metal container, and preferably wet down, he said.

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"Never empty ash trays into trash cans," Weller said.

The smoke alarm closest to the room where the boys were sleeping Sunday was not working, officials said Thursday.

This is common, Weller said.

About 90 percent of homes have at least one smoke alarm, but at least two-thirds of them, according to data, do not work, are disconnected or are too old to function properly.

"This is tragic," Weller said of the weeekend fire. "But it is preventable."

Hagerstown Fire Department and area fire companies offer free smoke alarms and will install them. Anyone who would like a free smoke alarm may call the Hagerstown Fire Department at 301-790-2476.

There should be a smoke alarm on every level of a home, Weller said.

Teenagers often sleep with their doors closed, and if this is the case, he said a smoke alarm should be inside the youth's bedroom.

"If a fire happens in the bedroom, you could die in that room before the smoke ever reaches the smoke alarm," he said.

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