Smoke alarms, plans key to fire safety

Published 10:10 am Thursday, February 18, 2010

While investigators continue to search for the cause of a 10-year-old tragic fire that claimed the life of a boy in Chesapeake last week, fire officials are offering some tips on how to prevent such fires in the future.

Johnathan Fralic, a fourth grader at Chesapeake Elementary, died at his home on County Road 3 near Bradrick Feb. 10.

The cause of the fire has not been determined, as officials from the Ohio State Fire Marshal continue to investigate.

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“Unfortunately, in our nation we lose 3500-4000 people a year to fires,” Tom Olshanski, a spokesman for the USFA, said. “We see typically 20,000 to 25,000 people who are injured in fires.”

These days an increase in the number of plastic products causes fires to burn more quickly and intensely than before.

“From cell phones to couches, there’s plastic everywhere and it’s loaded with oil,” Olshanski said. With all the plastic, these fires are similar to oil fires, he said.

“It is absolutely critical that people have a working smoke alarm,” Olshanski warned.

No such smoke detectors were located at the Chesapeake home, which was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived at the scene.

“A fire doubles in size every minute,” said Brandon Best, chief of the Chesapeake/Union Fire Department. “They move very quickly so early detection is key.”

The Chesapeake/Union department was one of several area departments that responded to the fire. Proctorville, Fayette Township, and Ohio River Road departments also responded.

Best reiterated the need for fire detectors and added that the Union Township passes them out to residents every two years.

The department is also in the process of setting up a smoke detector program through the State Fire Marshall.

The program would have firefighters install the devices in residents’ homes.

“We think smoke detectors are a big thing,” Best said.

The smoke alarms should be in every bedroom and hallway and on all levels of the home, Best said. Batteries in the alarm should be changed every six months.

Besides having working smoke alarms, families should also work out and practice a fire plan with their children.

Exit drills in the home, or EDITH, involve a safe route out of the house in the case of a fire as well as a meeting placing outside the home.

In many instances, children fear firefighters and hide when they enter the house to rescue them, Best and Olshanski said.

“Kids tend to run away from us,” Best said. “They’ll hide under beds instead of going outside.”

When teaching children fire safety, Best tries to emphasize to them that they should get out immediately instead of hiding somewhere.

Residents should also be very cautious of space heaters, which can cause a problem when they tip over or are situated too closely to curtains or other objects.

“Space heaters do get to a temperature hot enough to ignite,” Olshanski said. Additionally, fireplace ash should be completely extinguished before it is disposed of and kitchen stoves should not be used to heat the house.

The winter months see a number of these types of fires as well as fires associated with electrical problems and Christmas decorations.

“It’s just a dangerous time of year,” Olshanski said.

Olshanski recommends that people call their local fire departments with specific questions about fire safety.

More information can be found at

Fire escape planning tips from the USFA:

Install both ionization and photoelectric or dual sensor smoke alarms in each bedroom and outside bedrooms on each level of the house.

Know your local emergency numbers.

Practice finding your way out of the house with your eyes closed, crawling or staying low and feeling your way out of the house

Never open doors that are hot to the touch

Teach your family to stop, drop to the ground and roll if their clothes catch fire. Then get out of the house and stay out.

Designate a meeting place outside and take attendance

Remember to escape first, then notify the fire department

Make sure everyone in your family knows at least two ways to escape from each room in the house.