WEST ORANGE, NJ — Beginning Sunday, the West Orange Fire Department (WOFD) is teaming up with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week for more than 90 years, to promote this year’s fire-prevention campaign, “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere.”

Fire Prevention Week works to educate the public about basic but essential ways to quickly and safely escape a home fire. The week will end with the WOFD’s annual open house on Oct. 14 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at WOFD headquarters (415 Valley Road).

“Working in the fire service for 17 years, we know that people often make choices in fire situations that jeopardize their safety or even cost them their lives,” said WOFD Chief Anthony Vecchio. “We need to do a better job of teaching people about the potentially life-saving difference escape planning and practice can make and motivation them to action.”

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In a typical home fire, the NFPA states that residents have as little as one-to-two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. According to the fire department, knowing how to use that time wisely takes planning and practice.

NFPA statistics show that the number of U.S. home fires has been steadily declining over the past few decades. However, the death rate per 1,000 home fires that are reported to fire departments was 10 percent higher in 2016 than 1980.

“These numbers show that while we’ve made significant progress in teaching people how to prevent fires from happening, there’s still much more work to do in terms of education the public about how to protect themselves in the event of one,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “This is particularly critical given the increased speed at which today’s home fires grow and spread”

Carli also noted that although people feel safest in their home, it is also the place people are at greatest risk to fire, with four out of five U.S. fire deaths occurring at home. That over-confidence contributes to a complacency toward home escape planning and practice, she said.

West Orange Deputy Chief Fred Kingston said this year’s “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere campaign highlights three steps people can take to help quickly and safely escape a fire:

  • Look for places fire could start.
  • Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm.
  • Learn two ways out of every room

“Situational awareness is a skill people need to use wherever they go,” said Kingston. “No matter where you are, look for available exits. If the alarm system sounds, take it seriously and exit the building immediately.”

The open house event on Saturday will include fire prevention demonstrations, give-a-ways and light refreshments. 

Contact the WOFD at fireprev@westorange.org or 973-325-4175, or visit headquarters Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with any questions or to learn more.