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Spring forward for fire safety

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Staff Sgt. Aaron Breeden, 21st Space Wing photojournalist, shows an example of how a hallway filled with trash and debris can pose an egress hazard in the event of an emergency. As spring cleaning season nears, clearing hazards such as these from your home and workplace will help ensure other's safety should the unthinkable occur. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. J. Aaron Breeden)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Staff Sgt. Aaron Breeden, 21st Space Wing photojournalist, shows an example of how a hallway filled with trash and debris can pose an egress hazard in the event of an emergency. As spring cleaning season nears, clearing hazards such as these from your home and workplace will help ensure other's safety should the unthinkable occur. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. J. Aaron Breeden)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Spring traditionally is a great time to clean up around home and work areas. Fire safety experts also suggest that fire safety steps be taken at this time to prevent potential disasters from taking place and resulting in loss of property and even life.

Fire prevention in the home and office also carry over into the Air Force, according to Brad Melbardis, 721st Civil Engineer Squadron Civil Engineer Flight fire inspector. For example, one may practice fire safety in their home garage while their workplace may be a garage-type setting where the same safety precautions apply. With spring coming and people creating cleaning lists it is not difficult to employ some common fire safety tips at the same time.

"Spring cleaning is a good reminder of what to get done and of what's not getting done," Melbardis said.

Of course there are typical hazards to watch for like frayed cords and water leaks around electrical appliances, and with a little common sense home, office, workspace and outdoor areas can be made less of a potential fire risk.

Removing stacks of newspapers and magazines, for instance, or relocating empty boxes are good safety practices. Clearing things away from water heaters is important, Melbardis said, because people often store things in basements or garages where water heaters are located.

"They could potentially catch on fire," he said. "It's a good time to make room so you're not crowding spaces and they become a hazard."

Inside home and office Melbardis advises checking doors and windows to make sure they open easily, especially the ones not often used. These areas are the primary egress zones should an emergency occur, and getting out quickly could mean life or death.

"Spring cleaning is a good time to check and make sure they open, it usually takes some cleaning," Melbardis said.

Spring cleaning is also a good time to replace batteries in smoke detectors and to make sure they are in working order. Cleaning appliances is important too, chiefly dryer traps.

"It may seem obvious to some, but dryer fires are a leading cause of home fires," Melbardis cautioned. "Check the outside vent too and look for any buildup."

Keeping stoves and oven free of grease which can ignite is something that should be done as well. Keeping these appliances free of burnt food or grease may take some elbow grease he said, but is well worth it when it comes to fire safety.

Indoor work areas can be treated much like home areas that are similar in use, such as break rooms. Melbardis recommends using spring cleaning to make sure exits are clear of blockages.

"Check egress paths," he said, "People like to store things near doors so some spring cleaning can free up storage to clear paths."

Garage areas are excellent candidates for fire safety cleanups because of typical contents found in them. Hazardous chemicals and gasoline are often found in garages, but Melbardis said keeping such items in a shed is a better idea. He also suggests watching out for oily rags and clothes with chemicals on them as well as locking up any chemicals stored in the garage.

Wildfires are something people in the Pikes Peak region are familiar with and Melbardis offered some tips to help prevent such disasters from occurring. First off, smoking only in designated areas where there are proper receptacles is important. With recent drought conditions it doesn't take much to cause a large fire, he said.

With camping season fast approaching, using care and caution when lighting campfires is serious business.

"Follow all regulations for campfires," Melbardis said. "We all want them, but you have to follow the rules. Use a deep pit and surround it with stones. And make sure it is out. Saturate it with water and bury it. I'd even recommend sticking around for a while to keep an eye on it, make sure it isn't smoldering or smoking."

Campers should exercise caution with propane tanks and generators, as well. Proper ventilation and careful placement of hot exhaust pipes are things to add to a safety check list, especially in fire season.

"Watch your combustibles," he said.

If you have any fire safety questions contact Cheyenne Mountain AFS Fire Prevention office at 474-3355.

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