Firefighters raise alarm over string of structure fires

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Posted at 4:52 PM, Nov 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-30 11:37:50-05

HELENA — Wednesday morning's structure fire in Helena marks the eighth structure fire in Lewis and Clark County in six weeks. Six of them were residential and two were commercial. All residential fires had occupants in the homes and no working smoke detectors.

West Valley Fire Rescue Fire Chief Frank Dahlquist was on the scene Wednesday morning to help put the most recent fire out. This was only hours after another fire in the valley was sparked in a basement with eight occupants. Dahlquist says that a number of people sustained injuries but none that were life-threatening to his knowledge.

“Well, this follows a national trend during the winter months. You know, heating, electrical, those types of systems, are a little bit more under stressed as we're in those cold weather periods. And so, I just caution the public that, you know, your actions to prevent the fire in the first place and working smoke detectors will save lives,” says Dahlquist.

As the weather gets chillier, more households are using heat sources to stay warm. But using such things as space heaters and fireplaces comes with risk.

“This is the time where we have to recognize that there is risk. We just went through Fire Prevention Month where we got into a lot of the schools in our communities to talk about fire prevention with the kids. Now it’s the adults' time to take action. Check your smoke detectors, install new ones, change your batteries, make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors, as well. And that's what's going to help protect your family,” says West Valley Fire Rescue Fire Chief Frank Dahlquist.

Dahlquist says that as temperatures drop more folks are turning to various heating methods to stay warm. This includes space heaters, fires in the fireplace, and more. Because of this, it’s vital to stay vigilant about what flammable materials might be next to these heat sources.

“So again, during those winter months, we've got we've got a number of ignition sources. You're looking at fireplaces. You're looking at furnaces that may not been serviced recently, space heaters, all these things all the way to the candles during like power outages, are all causes to these types of fires,” says Dahlquist.

So, for this upcoming winter, make sure to check your smoke detectors’ batteries, keep your furnace maintained, and be cautious of what flammable materials might be near your heat sources in order to keep you, your loved ones, and your home safe.