Fire departments urge safety as calls go up amid pandemic


WATERFORD, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The leaves are changing and cold weather is coming, but what you don’t want is the fire department coming to put out our house.

“We don’t mind coming to your house for a cup of hot cocoa this time of year, we just don’t want to come there to put out a structure fire,” laughs Halfmoon-Waterford Fire Chief and Secretary for the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York John D’Alessandro.

Thursday marks the start of Fire Prevention Month. Chief D’Alessandro says since the coronavirus pandemic started, more people have been home. That brings advantages and challenges. One problem comes with more people cooking at home.

“It’s good in a way, because the families are getting together every day and eating together, but that causes an increase in kitchen, cooking accidents, and sometimes fires,” he explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

At the same time, more of his volunteer firefighters are working their day jobs from home, making them more available for calls.

“Even though we might have a little bit better response times, the number of calls are going up, the number of medical calls including COVID-related calls are going up, and the number of people we have to address these situations is going down,” D’Alessandro says.

Career fire departments like Albany echo similar concerns. The Albany Fire Department says in a press release constant calls and fire fighters potentially exposed to COVID-19 have stretched the department thin on staff. They and Chief D’Alessandro beg the community to observe this year’s Fire Prevention Month Theme: “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen”.

“Don’t leave pots and pans on the stove unattended. Everybody’s got a smart phone or smart watch, use a timer so that you don’t let things boil down to nothing on the stove, supervise kids in the kitchen,” explains D’Alessandro.

He also says it’s a good idea to prepare your home heating options for when the cold weather inevitably rolls in.

“In my department, we’ve already seen three chimney fires for people who turn their fireplace on in those cold evenings, forgot to get it cleaned, and then lo and behold, the fire department is paying you a visit,” he says.

D’Alessandro urges anyone with interest to contact their local volunteer fire department and ask to get more information on getting involved.

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