Winter approaching, fire officials caution residents, students

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PEPPERELL — American writer and naturalist Henry Beston once said: “The leaves fall, the wind blows, and the farm country changes from the summer cottons into its winter wools.”

Well, as the chills of autumn and the frosts of winter continue to embrace Pepperell, residents are taking the words of Beston to heart. Each day, more and more leaves are raked away, jackets are zipped up just a little higher and big, comfy sweaters are salvaged from the year before.

But with the cooling air, a greater danger is created — a fire danger, that is. And it is necessary to inform the community about ways to prevent this type of devastation.

Fire Chief Toby Tyler cautioned that now is the time of year when the department can expect to see chimney fires taking hold. According to the U.S. consumer product safety commission, over 29,000 chimney fires occur annually.

When asked about how to prevent these types of fires, Chief Tyler answered, “they need to make sure that they clean their fire places out.”

It is recommended that homeowners have their chimneys inspected and cleaned every year. You see, there is this black, sticky kind of smoke that actually attaches to the inside of the chimney. This smoke, known as creosote, is very combustible and has the potential to ignite an even bigger fire than the one nestled within the hearth.

To avoid fires, the Chimney Safety Institute of America suggests to use dry, seasoned wood, build smaller, hotter fires that produce less smoke and to never burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, trash or Christmas trees. Also, look into getting a cap for the chimney. It will prevent birds and other critters from entering through the top.

The Pepperell Fire Department believes that it is very important to educate the community about certain fire hazards. They also take the time to reach out to children through programs such as S.A.F.E. (Student Awareness of Fire Education). The program’s mission is to enable students to recognize the dangers of fire. Pepperell’s town website describes S.A.F.E. to be a state initiative designed to put trained fire and life safety educators in classrooms to conduct fire safety education programs.

“The lessons are very interactive,” said Chief Tyler.

Depending on the age group, students practice safety activities such as how to crawl low in smoke, how to dial 911, how to install a smoke detector or or how to design one’s own home escape plan. The primary S.A.F.E. educators are Chief Toby Tyler, Capt. John Rose and firefighter Tim Morine.

Chief Tyler and the Pepperell Fire Department work hard to to ensure safe living conditions within the community. It’s a team effort, however. Right now, it is your responsibility to make sure chimneys are cleaned out and inspected, smoke detectors are working correctly and that your family has an escape plan in the case of a real emergency.

Also, the community should begin to think ahead as the even colder weather approaches.

“Snow will be coming soon,” said Chief Tyler. “It certainly helps if people can shovel out their fire hydrants.”

For information, or to schedule a fire safety program, call or e-mail the Pepperell Fire Department at fire@town.pepperell.ma.us.