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United States Fire Administration offers fire safety tips

BURLINGTON — The statistics are frightening: Roughly one third of all people killed in house fires are over the age of 65.

People over the age of 65 are twice as likely to die in a house fire as younger people. Over 75? You’re at least 3 times as likely to die in a house fire.

This week, those statistics became reality when an 80-year-old Haines Branch man died in a fire at his home.

Kathy Gerstner, fire protection specialist for the U.S. Fire Administration (part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency/ Department of Homeland Security), said each year roughly 3,500 people are killed in house fires. Of those people, 1,100 are over the age of 65.

“They reach the age where sometimes they have trouble reacting to a smoke alarm or can’t move as quickly,” Gerstner said. “Often they are on medications and their reaction time is slower.”

Even with a smoke alarm to sound a warning, a person in house fire might have only 3 minutes to get out of the burning building, Gerstner said. She strongly suggested people have an escape plan worked out ahead of time and practice it, in case of a fire.

Other USFA fire safety tips:

— Having a working smoke alarm reduces one’s chances of dying in a fire by nearly a half. The USFA recommends installing both ionization (detects fast-burning fires) and photoelectric (detects slow, smoldering fires), or dual sensor smoke alarms in the home per manufacturers’ installation instructions and applicable codes. Install smoke alarms in each bedroom.

— The kitchen is a high danger zone for fire, so be extra cautious when cooking. Remember not to leave cooking food unattended and don’t wear loose clothing when cooking.

— Never use the range or oven to heat your home.

— Double-check the kitchen to be sure the oven and all small appliances are turned off before going to bed or leaving the house.

— Never smoke in bed. Replace mattresses made prior to the 2007 Federal Mattress Flammability Standard.

— Keep flammable materials, such as drapes and clothing at least three feet away from your heater.

— Don’t overload electrical outlets.

— Develop and practice a home fire escape plan.

— In case of a fire, crawl or stay low to the ground, beneath the smoke. Get out. Stay out.

For more information about safety visit the USFA website at www.usfa.dhs.gov or www.ready.gov.