Smokey the Bear’s admonition that “only you can prevent forest fires” might not technically apply to daily life, but the overall sentiment of avoiding problems before they happen is a good one.
That was the message Jan. 10 during a presentation from Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One at the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Public Affairs Forum.
Fire prevention education and other safety precautions produce better, safer communities in the long run, Prevention Chief Eric Waters told business leaders. He said the demand for fire prevention education services in Gig Harbor reflects well on the area.
“I think it says a lot about our community,” he said.
Waters highlighted some fire prevention and safety tip statistics from 2012:
• Seven hundred forty-five students learned about fire safety through the National Fire Protection Association’s “Learn Not to Burn” preschool program.
• The fire department made presentations in 160 classrooms and to 3,865 students, and they covered a variety of topics: how to call 9-1-1, fire safety, water safety, disaster preparedness, helmet safety and first aid awareness.
• The department held a mock crash assembly for 700 graduating seniors from Gig Harbor and Peninsula High schools.
• The department conduced 38 car seat safety inspections and installations.
• The department conducted presentations in driver’s education, cooking/kitchen safety and child psychology and health to some 1,100 high school students.
• Ninety-three students took part in eight three-day classes put on by the department on an overview of CPR and babysitting responsibilities.
Non-fire safety considerations and preventing injuries also play significant roles in what Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One does. Last year, the department custom-fitted 353 bike, multi-sport and ski helmets, Waters said, as well as 37 personal flotation devices at the Maritime Gig Festival. The department also provided loaner life jackets at two of Gig Harbor’s docks.
Fire prevention remains a major focus.
“When fire occurs, it’s a horrific thing,” Waters said, whether it’s in a residential area or business.
Blazes in commercial establishments often mean the end of the affected business, he said.
“It’s the kiss of death,” Waters said.
That’s why the department is working to build relationships with the business community and commercial residents, he said.
Part of that includes fire inspections. Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One is tasked with inspections within the department’s boundaries. There are 908 commercial occupancies that fall within the city limits, Waters said.
Inspections of individual buildings take place about every 12 months, he said, adding there is no fee. The cost of the inspection is part of the annual business license fee collected by the city.
Prevention is preferable to responding to a fire or fires.
“We don’t believe we are the fire police,” Waters said. “We don’t want that responsibility.”
Some may consider fire inspections a nuisance, fire inspector Phil Miller said, but they serve a greater purpose.
“What we are doing here is saving lives,” he said.
Fire inspections within unincorporated Pierce County are handled by the Pierce County Fire Prevention Bureau. Within the boundaries of Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One, there are 325 commercial occupancies in unincorporated Pierce County. All occupancies in the unincorporated county, other than one- and two-family dwellings, are considered commercial occupancies and are included in the fire inspection program.
At a minimum fee of $5, fire inspections in unincorporated Pierce County take place about every 12 to 18 months.
Waters had kind words for Pierce County Deputy Fire Marshall Mark Carman.
“Mark does a really good job,” he said.
For more information on fire prevention and other safety ideas, visit www.gigharborfire.org.Reporter Brett Davis can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_brett.