FGCU Professor says SWFL ‘can prevent fires at home’

Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

Florida — like California — is prone to wildfires during the dry season. Some families suffered similar losses in the flames, losing their homes and possessions. After a moderate fire season last year, one FGCU professor predicts this year could be different, thanks to leftover fuel from Hurricane Irma.

FGCU’s Dr. Win Everham looks at ways local residents can prevent fires at home as well as the impact fire has in Southwest Florida.

“Like California, this part of Florida has always had fires,” Everham said. “So, fire is part of the landscape.”

As dry season begins in Southwest Florida, there are ways you can also help reign in potential fires

“You build a house; you better know the landscape it’s embedded in,” Everham said. “If you moved to a place like this, that’s always had fire, you really are obligated to learn something about it. You can’t close your eyes and pretend it’s not true.”

Other top tips for fire safety at home:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Test smoke alarms every month. If they’re not working, change the batteries.
  • Talk with all family members about a fire escape plan and practice the plan twice a year.
  • If a fire occurs in your home, get out, stay out and call for help. Never go back inside for anything or anyone.
  • Never leave your cooking unattendedAlways keep your stove company. Especially if you’re frying something — that’s when things can cross the line in mere seconds. 
  • Set a timer. Don’t just rely on your brain; we’re human, and we get distracted. A timer can remind you to switch off the burner or oven, saving your food and possibly your house from being burnt.
  • Keep the indoors a no-smoking zone. If you must smoke, smoke outdoors; too many home fires begin inside the home, with smoking materials as the catalyst.
  • Be alert. Don’t snooze and smoke. If you’re feeling the slightest bit drowsy (due to sleep deprivation, medication, alcohol, or any other reason), put out your fire immediately.
  • Replace all frayed wires: worn, old, or damaged appliance cords belong in the dumpster and not shoved under the rug.

All tips for fire safety were from American Red Cross and Atlantic Training.

As the dry season continues here, every year landscaping could have new fuel to ignite the next fire. 

“I’d be concerned that we didn’t get as bad of fires last year as we might have,” Everham said. “And it might be this year — a lot of the fuel — the logs and branches that Irma put down on the ground are still on the ground.”

Just two years ago, Lee and Collier saw wildfires destroy homes and temporarily evacuated countless people.

Everham said a way fire officials prevent these types of incidents are prescribed burns.

“A prescribed burn to match what happened historically,” Everham said. “They don’t always get done. just because there are not enough resources.”

Resources are not the only reason these prescribed burns don’t get done.

“They’re more often restricted because people get mad about the smoke or complain about the smoke,” Everham said.


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