The Houston Fire Department wants citizens to have a fun and safe Labor Day holiday weekend and not a tragic one.
Although the City has a chance for rain this weekend, we are still considered to be in a drought and will probably see grass fires. In August, the HFD responded to more than 300 grass fires, compared to about 90 in August of 2010. Last weekend, the City had nearly 40 grass fires.
HFD reminds citizens that any outdoor open-burning including the burning of: a bonfire, rubbish fire, campfire, trench fire, or other fire in an outdoor location where fuel being burned is not contained in an approved incinerator, outdoor fireplace, barbecue grill or barbecue pit is prohibited not only in the city by the City Fire Code, but also in the County due to the current ban.
Improper use of a barbeque pit or improper disposal of barbeque coals, ashes or briquettes and carelessly discarded smoking materials can easily ignite outdoor fires.
HFD recommend the following safety tips:
- Portable barbecue pits, charcoal grills and other open-flame cooking devices outside of a building should not be operated on combustible balconies or located within 10 feet of combustible walls or roofs or other combustible materials.
- When igniting the barbecue charcoal, citizens should use a charcoal lighter, not gasoline. Gasoline can flash violently in and around the pit causing serious injuries to anyone in the area of the flash. A fire extinguisher or charged garden hose should be handy while the fire is burning. Check the pit frequently to insure that it is okay.
- Hot ash and coals from barbecue pits and charcoal burners should be placed in a non-combustible container until cooled or thoroughly saturated with water, before being disposed of.
Another cause of accidental fires which increase during times of drought is carelessly discarded cigarettes, or other smoking materials. These can smolder for hours and should be completely doused with water before discarding them. They should be discarded in a safe manner and not by being thrown out a window or tossing them on the ground.
Texas’ arson law includes felony punishment for anyone whose cigarette recklessly sets fire to a building or injures anyone. Arson is a second-degree felony in Texas, punishable by two to 20 years in prison, but if a person is hurt or killed or if the fire involves a church, arson is a first-degree felony, and the arsonist can face up to life in prison.
Even though we are seeing a drop in temperatures, there is still a risk for heat-related emergencies. In August the HFD responded to more than 250 heat-related EMS calls, compared to 195 in August 2010. During the last weekend (August 26-28) HFD responded to more than 20 heat-related emergency medical calls.
HFD recommends the following safety tips:
- Before conducting outdoors activities and feeling thirsty, drink plenty of water and electrolyte-replacement beverages. Avoid beverages or food sources with caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar because these can actually result in the loss of body fluid.
- A wide-brimmed, loose-fitting hat that allows ventilation helps prevent sunburn and heat-related emergencies. A tight-fitting baseball cap is not the best choice when conducting strenuous outdoors activities. Sunscreen also helps protect injury from the sun's rays and reduces the risk of sunburn.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that permits the evaporation of perspiration. Do not leave children, senior citizens or pets unattended in a vehicle.
Additional information may be found on the HFD website at www.houstonfire.org