Oct. 5 -11 marks the annual Fire Prevention Week, sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) for more than 90 years. The theme for this years campaign is, “Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month!

NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy Lorraine Carli, says, “Smoke alarms can help make the difference between life and death in a fire, but they need to be working.”

On the association’s website, www.nfpa.org, statistics and tips are offered, such as 96 percent of homes in America have at least one smoke alarm. From the reported home fires between 2003 to 2006, 41 percent of homes had either no smoke alarm, or alarms that did not operate. The site also states that nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths were the result of homes without working alarms, or no smoke alarms at all.

Two types of smoke alarms are available on the market: ionization and photoelectric. County Emergency Coordinator Rick Stever said, “Each one has their purpose.”

Ionization smoke alarms benefit a home by being quicker to warn about fires with lots of flames.

Photoelectric alarms are quicker to warn home dwellers of smoldering fires that produce more smoke. Stever said, “it’s wise to have both types,” as does the nfpa.org website.

As residents throughout the county prepare for colder weather soon to arrive, Stever offers tips for additional safety during the fire-burning season. “Make sure chimneys are clean,” along with stove pipes, fireplace flues, and that chimneys are in good working condition.

County Sheriff Kerry Lee recommends moving flammable materials away from heaters and wood burning stoves. He also encourages changing the batteries in your Co2 and/or smoke alarms, and that if your home doesn’t have an alarm, to contact your local fire department. “In most cases they may be able to give you a smoke detector free of cost,” said Lee.

Stever said some numbers have dwindled within the volunteer firefighters in some towns in the county. However, last spring the fire department in Pioche was reevaluated for a rating on emergency fire response.

Results came back over the summer, and the town wide fire rating went down. “I believe it’s the lowest we’ve been in history,” Stever said. When Stever started in the fire departments, 15 to 20 years ago, he said the rating was at a, “seven or eight.” Then the town moved to a “six.” This year’s reevaluation reduced the rating to a five, which he said was “critical,” and could have beneficial effects on homeowner’s insurance for Pioche residents. He said Las Vegas is the only “class one” fire department in the state. He said the ratings are determined and evaluated based on the department, the equipment, water resources, and records from every emergency call the Pioche Volunteer Fire Department receives.

“We could have lowered the score more, but we had a lack of volunteers,” Stever said. Recently the entry level for volunteer firefighters was lowered to the age of 18, and Stever commented on how more women were getting involved. There’s also a national program, for a citizen’s response team, that has now started accepting teens.

Caliente and Alamo have not yet been reevaluated, but Caliente Fire Chief George Rowe said they will be soon.

Panaca was rated at the same time as Pioche, also moving from a six to a five. Lee said some of the outlying areas between Panaca and Caliente went from a 10 to an eight.

“We feel very happy that we were able to get these ratings down, as it helps everyone’s homeowner’s insurance. The fire departments in the county have worked hard with training and equipment so that when we were rerated, we could get the rates down even more.” Lee expressed that Panaca too, struggles with getting volunteers. Lee said, “If nobody volunteers, then there will be no fire department or ambulance.” The crews are always accepting application for volunteers, and wishes to encourage people from the community to be concerned and be involved and volunteer.

Although volunteer numbers may be down, residents can help reduce the risk of home fires by checking their smoke alarms monthly, to ensure they work properly. It’s also recommended for larger homes to have more than two alarms. Winter is on its way, and making your home safe from fire emergencies reduces the chance of being devastated by a home fire. Sheriff Lee said, “Your life or the life of a family member is not worth the cost of a battery.”