LINDALE, Texas (KETK) – With temperatures dropping, house fires in East Texas are known to rise.
When a blaze breaks out, it’s important to know how to escape the flames when only seconds to count. That’s something the Lindale Fire Department helped make sure children in the area knew how to do.
“We believe it’s important the earlier you can teach kids how to deal with an emergency the better it is and the calmer they will be to mitigate the situation,” said Captain Jeremy Larue.
To educate children on the importance of fire safety, Lindale Fire hosted a puppet show offering information and tips on how to get out safely.
“This year we focused on what to do if your clothes catch on fire to stop, drop, cover your face and roll,” said Captain Larue. “It’s a new thing to protect your eyes your face and your mouth. Those are sensitive organs.”
According to the state fire marshall’s office, there were over 16,000 house fires in Texas alone in 2016. From that 108 people died and nearly 500 people were injured.
Fema reports most victims of house fires are children and the elderly.
“They are not able to make it out of the house fast enough,” said Patrick Dolley. “Kids get scared and want to hide in places which makes it harder for firefighters to get them out.”
A program like the one given by Lindale Fire is age-appropriate and connects with children by reading stories to kids at the library and showing them what gear looks like to make them comfortable with firefighters.
“If we have to show up to their house they won’t be scared that we are strangers and will be more comfortable with us,” said Cory Cavallo, Tyler Fire.
Parents say these presentations are life-saving.
“If they ever are in a situation where they need help from officials or rescue teams, they will know how to recognize them, spot them, and not be scared,” said Carla Anthony, a Tyler parent.
One Tyler resident spoke about a fire that killed three of her family members in February of 2019. At the time it was peak season for space heaters.
“A lot of people use space heaters that are old and don’t have a lot of the safety features,” said Dooley.
Over 1,300 structure fires were reported in East Texas in 2016, most of them caused by heating and cooking.
The house fire in February did not have working fire detectors which prompted the department to knock on neighboring doors urging people to purchase one.
“Getting working smoke detectors and testing them is a good idea,” said Dooley.
Fire officials suggest to parents the best way to keep children safe is to openly discuss how to avoid fires and what devices are off-limits in the house.
“Sit down with your kids and talk to them about lighters, matches and fire safety,” said Dooley.
Other safety tips the department suggested is that if you smell smoke to check the doorknob before opening the door. If it’s hot there could be flames on the other side.
If you can’t get out, close the door and cover vents and cracks with cloth or tape then call 911 and tell first responders where you are.
“I think it was very impactful what they were doing for the community, to make sure it doesn’t happen again and give people warning, hey this is what you need and this is how you do it,” said Courtney Harper.