On the fire safety frontlines at Manchester Fire Prevention Parade and MusterBy DAMIEN FISHER
New Hampshire Union Leader
October 07. 2012 9:07PM
Sunday's Fire Prevention Parade and Muster served as the kickoff event for the national Fire Prevention Week, during which the city's firefighters are going all out to teach people about fire safety.
'We do a lot of work in the schools,' Fire Chief James Burkush said.
The goal Sunday was to let people know October is a good time to change batteries in smoke detectors and make a family plan for fire escapes.
'October is a good benchmark,' he said.
This is the time of year many people turn on their heating systems, and with the high cost of heating oil, some will be turning to alternate heating sources, he said. Sometimes those alternate heating systems, like space heaters, can lead to fires.
The city sees hundreds of fires a year, Burkush said, with 150 fires in houses in 2011.
With that potential for danger, Burkush wants to make sure people plan for the worst. He wants to see families create escape plans, emphasizing that they have two ways out of their homes in case of a fire. He suggests people make a map of their homes and mark all the doors and windows that can be used to get outside. Families should identify a place in the yard to meet after escaping a house fire, and should practice fire drills. The escape plan should be kept on the refrigerator and include emergency phone numbers.
Burkush said the advent of sprinkler systems in city apartment buildings is helping. In Manchester, all new construction of multifamily homes of four stories or more must include sprinklers, and all multifamily homes of four stories or more that are renovated must be retrofitted with a sprinkler system.
Deputy Fire Marshall Mitch Cady demonstrated the effectiveness of sprinkler systems using two rooms built at the station.
Both rooms, standalone structures with furniture, were set on fire. The room without a sprinkler system reached a flashpoint in one minute and 10 seconds.
'That's when everything in the room in involved in fire,' Cady said.
The second room was equipped with a sprinkler, which went off when the sprinkler head reached 135 degrees. The fire was extinguished after 44 seconds. The difference is in the time people have to get out of a fire with their lives, Cady said.
'The sprinklers allow people to survive,' Cady said.
Fire Prevention Week is coinciding this year with another campaign run by the department, this one to raise awareness about breast cancer, Burkush said.
All on-duty firefighters will wear pink T-shirts as part of their uniform for the next two weeks in an effort to raise awareness.
The department sold pink T-shirts on Sunday, with the proceeds going to Catholic Medical Center in Manchester to assist women going through breast cancer treatment.
Firefighter Josh Guay was wearing one of the pink T-shirts Sunday, and said he doesn't mind the temporary change in uniform.
'It's for a good cause,' he said.
The Manchester Fire Department has been supporting women with breast cancer for two years, putting pink ribbons on the trucks and raising awareness and funds. The department started helping when Portsmouth Firefighter Sarah Fox was diagnosed with the disease.
Fox later died from the illness, but Manchester and other departments throughout the state continue to help other woman fighting breast cancer.