Gusty winds show importance of fire safety as Halloween approaches

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Information provided by the Illinois Fire Marshal

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (October 20, 2020) – The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal (OSFM) reminds residents to keep fire safety in mind when putting up fall or Halloween decorations. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), from 2014-2018, an average of 770 home structure fires began with decorations per year across the nation. More than two of every five (44%) of these fires occurred because the decorations were too close to a heat source, such as a candle or hot equipment. More than one-third (36%) of these fires were started by candles.

In recent days, dry conditions and gusty winds have fueled countless fires destroying miles of farmland, valuable equipment, structures and in some cases severely injuring those involved. Fires can occur at any time of year and anywhere in the country, including remote rural areas, state or national parks, or even in your backyard. Wildfires can be sparked from natural sources, such as lightning, or accidentally by humans via cigarettes, campfires or grills, or by mechanical sparks coming into contact with flammable materials. It is with that in mind that state officials are urging Illinois residents to heed the warnings issued by National Weather Service meteorologists and local officials to reduce the risk of fall fires, especially as Halloween approaches.

The National Weather Service (NWS) will issue Red Flag Warnings when weather conditions, such as strong winds, low relative humidity and high temperatures, make for outdoor fire dangers. During these dangerous times, the NWS urges everyone to use extreme caution because a simple spark can create a major fire. Sparks or embers can blow into leaves or grass, igniting a fire that can quickly spread.

Halloween tips

When choosing a Halloween costume for your children stay away from long trailing fabric. If your child is wearing a mask, make sure the eye holes are large enough so he or she can see out. Provide children with flashlights to carry for lighting or glow sticks as part of their costume. Tell children to stay away from open flames including jack-o-lanterns with candles in them. Be sure they know how to stop, drop and roll if their clothing catches fire.

Keep these fire safety tips in mind to have safe and spooky Halloween:

  • Use a battery-operated candle or glow stick in jack-o-lanterns
  • When choosing costumes, stay away from long trailing fabric
  • Teach children to stay away from open flames, including jack-o-lanterns with candles in them.
  • Dried flowers, cornstalks, and crepe paper catch fire easily. Keep all decorations away from open flames and other heat sources like light bulbs and heaters
  • Provide children with flashlights to carry for lighting or glow sticks as part of their costume.
  • Remember to keep exits clear of decorations so nothing blocks escape routes. Make sure all smoke alarms are working.

Field fires and wildfires

“This past week’s dry and windy conditions resulted in field fires across our state, adding stress to the harvest season,” said Jerry Costello II, IDOA Acting Director. “Our thoughts are with those farmers and their families that experienced crop loss. We encourage fire safety and fire prevention to be a part of every farmer’s farm safety plan.”

Nearly nine out of 10 wildfires, nationally, are caused by humans and could have been prevented. Before any fire happens, make sure your home or business is resistant to catching fire. This can be accomplished by clearing away debris and other flammable materials and using fire-resistant materials for landscaping and construction.

Things to know about wildfires:

  • Know what to do before, during and after a wildfire;
  • Learn your evacuation routes;
  • Have emergency supplies in place at home, work and in the car;
  • Listen to local officials for instructions and plan to evacuate if advised;
  • Keep track of fires near your community or where you plan to vacation with https://fsapps.nwcg.gov/afm/index.php
  • If you evacuated an area due to a wildfire, wait for public officials to say it is safe before returning.

Camping Fire and Burn Safety

Cooler temperatures make for great hiking and camping weather in Illinois. Before you plan your next adventure, officials with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) encourage you to make fall fire prevention plan.

“Moving into fall, we’ve seen low humidity, dry ground and gusty winds, exponentially increasing the chances of wildland and forest fires,” said IDNR Director Colleen Callahan. “Even though we’re moving into the tail end of camping season, with conditions like these it’s incredibly important for campers to keep a close eye on warnings from the National Weather Service and always monitor campfires and stoves. A small spark can get out of hand in a matter of seconds.”

By following these safety tips, campers can help prevent fires at IDNR sites and even private campgrounds:

  • At campgrounds at state parks and other IDNR-managed sites, fires are allowed in stoves, grills or other designated areas only. Large bonfires are not permitted without permission of the site superintendent.
  • Have a supply of water or fire extinguisher and shovel readily available before building your fire.
  • Never use a flammable liquid (especially gasoline) to start a fire or on hot coals.  Explosions can result.
  • When near campfires and grills, wear snug-fitting, tightly woven, or short-sleeved garments.
  • Pitch tents at least 15 feet upwind from grills and fire pits.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Before you leave your campsite, make sure coals are thoroughly extinguished before disposal.
  • If your fire gets out of control, note your location and call 9-1-1 for assistance.

Learn more safety tips at www.ready.gov/wildfires.