By Jackie Glosniak
As the weather grows colder in Berwyn, firefighters are worrying about the increased fire risk as more people stay indoors and try potentially unsafe ways to keep warm.
“People are not spending as much time outdoors, and are using fireplaces, supplemental electrical components such as space heaters, and overusing extension cords for TVs and other things to entertain themselves,” said Berwyn Fire Chief Denis O’Halloran.
The increasing risk comes after a busier than usual October, with four house fires occurring at the end of the month.
Angelica Landa of the 3600 block of Oak Park Ave. is wary about fire danger after an exploding water heater caused a fire in her house years ago.
“I have two smoke alarms as well as a fire extinguisher underneath my sink in the kitchen,” she said. “I also have emergency contact numbers available both in my cell phone and posted in my kitchen.”
O’Halloran also has suggestions to avoid fires during the winter months and holiday season.
[During the winter months], the most typical things are not keeping up with cleaning dryer machines, or when space heaters are put too close to combustible materials,” he said. “Also, careless use of candles and cooking related fires cause fires during the season.”
Some steps are just common sense, O’Halloran said. People should have many smoke detectors, and check the batteries often. They should also pay attention to potential fire sources in their homes.
“Typical things would be remembering that cooking appliances are made to be attended,” he said. “Don’t walk away from the stove when cooking. Also, pay attention to other sources of ignition, including dryers, washing machines, and toaster ovens.”
Landa has some of her own suggestions for the holiday season.
“I have a fake tree, so I don’t run into the problem of a tree drying out,” Landa said. “I also have outlet covers for my younger family members who stop over and visit. I don’t overdo anything with extension cords, and I only leave Christmas tree lights on for a couple of hours at a time. Everything gets shut off before I go to bed.”
The Berwyn Fire Department keeps up the education beyond the winter months, running fire education safety programs throughout the year.
“We speak to social organizations, including the Kiwanis Club, Lions Club, and VFW,” O’Halloran said. “Also, we have fire prevention week, where we target school-aged children, giving them fire safety talks and help them plan fire escape routes for their homes.”
Last month fire hit four Berwyn houses within 12 hours, but it is unclear whether cold weather played a role.
- The first fire erupted just after 10 p.m. Oct. 27 in the 3500 block of Maple Ave and took five hours to put out. Two victims were treated for smoke inhalation at Vanguard MacNeal Hospital, and were later released.
- Another fire was reported about 3 a.m. Oct. 28, in the 3100 block of Ridgeland Ave. The incident turned out to be a manageable one-room fire in an apartment building, and Berwyn firefighters extinguished it quickly.
- Later that morning, firefighters reported to two more fires around 7 a.m. One was at a home near the intersection of Ogden and Wisconsin avenues. Flames broke out in the backyard of the home and only took around five minutes to control. The other was at a home in the 6300 block of Ridgeland Ave,; the fire started in a mattress.