Greenville Fire-Rescue cut short its fire-prevention month activities because of the coronavirus pandemic, but officials encourage residents to practice fire safety year-round.
The agency typically extends National Fire Prevention Week through the month with events to remind residents of safety measures as the weather cools and holidays approach. It also celebrates a new batch of cadets from the Pitt Community College Fire Academy.
The theme of this year’s prevention week, which ended with the graduation on Oct. 9, was “Serving up fire safety in the kitchen.” Cooking fires are the most common types in Greenville and nationwide, said city Fire Marshal Bryant Beddard.
Beddard said to prevent cooking fires residents should stay alert, sober and in the kitchen when food is cooking. “If you’re in there frying food, you definitely don’t want to leave that unattended,” Beddard said.
“What some people do, what’s a good thing to do, is setting reminders on your phone. Most people keep their phones with them, so if you got something baking in the oven, set a reminder on your phone ... that says check the oven in 10 minutes on whatever it is you’re cooking.”
Smoke alarms are essential, he said. Fire-Rescue provides alarms and inspections for free. People can call 329-4390 to inquire.
Carbon monoxide detectors also are important as residents fire up their heating sources. He said people should use their fireplaces according to the manufacture’s guidelines, make sure they use the right kind of fuel and keep items three feet away from the fireplace.
He said people should have a qualified professional evaluate their fireplace, have the chimney cleaned and inspected and turn the fireplace off or make sure the fire is out before they go to bed.
“Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, so you actually need a detector in case your fireplace has an issue or there’s a problem, your detector would alert you of that,” Beddard said.
Beddard also recommends using flameless candles and reminds residents to always have an evacuation plan and know two ways out of every room.
The agency created online content for prevention week activities this year, most targeted toward youth and distributed at schools and daycares. Staff also has live fire safety lessons via online meeting platforms, but the pandemic has ended most in-person activities.
“Our staff are doing some parades, I’ll say, so we’re not like at a daycare getting out of the truck going in and spending half an hour with the kids, but we are still going by and driving by and waving at them so they can at least see what the fire truck looks like and see our staff and wave at them and stuff,” Beddard said.
The agency capped off the week a graduation ceremony for 19 cadets who completed nearly 900 hours of fire fighting, emergency medical care and technical rescue training, Beddard said.
GFR Batallion Chief Kevin Sowers said cadets will be assigned to one of three shifts at a primary station along with other stations when needed.
Academies usually have around 20 cadets, but the numbers vary based on the need for new hires, Sowers said. When it’s time for hiring the chief figures out how many vacant positions there are and plans an overhire to cover the transition that will occur until the next academy, Sowers said.
“You can’t just fill the void now, you’ve got to do some projections and say what’s the void going to be between now and when I get to do this again” Sowers said.
The training continues after graduation. New employees have two phases of field training and are assigned to a station officer. Training continues throughout their tenure.
Sowers said firefighters learn to adapt and aren’t intimidated when they need to address new situations.
“I can’t say that is all due to training. I think a lot of that is due to mindset and attitude, meaning that we know that’s how it works and we’re comfortable in that environment,” Sowers said.