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franklin county times

RFD promotes fire safety awareness

With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, many will be gathering in large numbers indoors to celebrate. While getting ready for the festivities might include holiday fun like baking and decorating, the Russellville Fire Department is reminding the community that it’s also a good time to think about fire safety and prevention.

Among precautions suggested, Russellville Fire Chief Joe Mansell cautioned against plugging in too many devices to one power strip. He also encouraged extreme care if using candles, noting especially for those with kids and pets, they can present extra risks. Recommended alternatives to candles include wax warmers and air fresheners.

“We’re getting into the busiest time of the year for fires, and we don’t want a fire fatality,” explained Mansell.

The best way to prevent that, Mansell added, is through smoke alarms.

Fire marshal Justin Green said the department places an emphasis on making sure your alarms are in good working order. Not checking smoke alarms could mean losing your family, he said, which makes it crucial to have working smoke alarms in place.

Mansell said if a household only has one smoke detector, it should be placed near where the person sleeps so they can hear it better. Ideally, someone with a big house would have at least one on each end of the house and at least one per floor for homes with more than one story.


Through the RFD’s smoke alarm program, anybody in their coverage area who does not have a working smoke alarm can notify the department to request free smoke alarms, up to one per floor, along with free installation.

Green said requests can be made through the Russellville Fire Department Facebook page, by email to main.rfd@gmail.com or by calling 256-332-8765 and leaving a voicemail with name, phone number and address. The department will call to set up a time to install a working smoke alarm.

For those who prefer to buy and install their own smoke alarms, there are more advanced options they might want to consider, including models that can communicate with each other to better relay threats. One type that does this is KIDDE.

“If you’re going to mount a smoke alarm on the wall, you need four and a half inches between the alarm and the ceiling, and the boxes they come in are about the size, so that helps with measuring,” explained Mansell.


Carbon monoxide detectors are not part of the RFD’s free program, but Green said for those with homes using natural gas or propane, it’s “vital to have carbon monoxide detectors.”

He said some devices are dual purpose, including both a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide detector.

Green explained initial signs of being affected by carbon monoxide poisoning include light-headedness and headache.

“If that happens, get everybody out of the house and call 911,” Green said. “Someone will come out and check to make sure you don’t have high levels of carbon monoxide in your house.”


Green said it’s important to keep children away from cooking areas, adding it’s a good practice to turn pot handles inward to try to help avoid having them be knocked over accidentally and causing burns or fires.

Mansell said a fire extinguisher is a good idea, too – “a standard ABC extinguisher would work fine.”

When it comes to kitchen fires, Mansell said flour, which has really fine granules, can be used to put out a kitchen fire, but “you have to dump a lot of it so it can smother the fire, taking the oxygen away from it.”

“Don’t pick up a skillet or pan that’s on fire,” he cautioned, “and never put water on a grease fire.”

Other tips include wearing short sleeves and avoiding loose clothing while cooking. “Only the people that need to be in the kitchen should be there,” he added.

Green said when cooking outdoors to make sure to stay at least 10 feet away from the house, including anything like an overhang or awning, and make sure to use eye and hand protection, such as oven mitts.

For those who like cooking turkeys outside, Mansell explained an air fryer is “a little healthier and a lot safer.” Users should not put a frozen turkey into an air fryer, as that would be very dangerous – something the RFD has tested.


In the event of a fire indoors, Mansell advised staying low to the floor, crawling to get out of the house and making sure everybody gets out.

“Call 911. If your clothes are on fire, stop, drop to the ground and roll to help put it out,” he added. “Make sure to have a meeting place outdoors that everyone knows they should go.”


“Winter’s coming, and it’s been cold,” noted Green. “People are running their heat, and it’s important to be safe in how you go about it.”

Here a few safety tips when it comes to heaters:

  • Don’t run outside heaters indoors.
  • When using indoor space heaters, make sure there’s at least three feet of clearance around them from anything that could burn, such as curtains and furniture.
  • Try to buy a heater that has tip protection, so that if it gets knocked over, it will cut off automatically.
  • Look for ceramic space heaters, as they will cool off as soon as they are shut down.
  • While it’s best not to leave them on all night, it’s the only heat some people have available, so the department encourages best safety practices.
  • Plug the heater directly into a wall socket instead of into a power strip.


Those who are extra concerned can request the fire department to come to their home to help look for possible fire hazards.

“That’s no guarantee we won’t overlook something,” noted Mansell, “but we’ll be more than glad to walk though and try to identify possible hazards and determine ways to make your home safer and increase the chances of everyone being able to get out in the event of a fire.”


The Russellville Fire Department engaged in extra education efforts this past month, as it does every October, as part of Fire Prevention Month. The department took the fire safety trailer to every school in the county and talked to students about fire safety, making it fun along the way.

“We’ve had kids that got out of fires from what they’ve learned,” noted Mansell.

Safety tips children learned included:

  • Make sure to change the batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year, and be sure the alarms are in working order.
  • Make sure everybody in the family knows two ways to get out of any room.
  • Set up a meeting place somewhere outside where the family knows to meet.
  • If anyone is still in the house, do not go back in; instead, wait for the fire department to arrive and let them know someone is still inside. “We will go in and get somebody out if they’re still in there,” explained Green, “but if you go in, there will probably be another victim for us to get out because the smoke is going to be too thick.”
  • Use the back of your hand to feel the door before going through; if it’s hot, don’t go through it. Do this before trying a doorknob because knobs are metal and can cause burns.

“It’s always a popular program with the kids,” explained Debra Lawler, whose kindergarten class was among those to participate at West Elementary. “They all love it. All week, they ask when it will be their turn. We’ve been doing related activities, including talking about calling 911 and ‘Stop, drop and roll,’ as well as what a firefighter does. We’ve also been learning about Sparky, the fire department’s mascot.”

RFD Deputy Chief Randy Seal said the program is something the department looks forward to each year.

“It’s important to get this information to the kids at an early age, and the program covers Pre-K through second grade,” he explained. “They can practice and ask questions, as well as see a fire truck up close. They love it.”


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