SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Unattended cooking and burning candles caused half of the fires on Army installations in 2008, according to Victor Flint, battalion chief, Federal Fire Department-Hawaii.

"It's very important to never leave candles unattended in close proximity of combustible material," said Flint, explaining in these instances, smoke detectors and quick calls to 911 saved members of the household from harm.

Though undoubtedly shaken, the victims were fortunate enough to spot trouble as it happened and escaped unscathed. Many of their possessions, however, were lost forever.
"These fires were preventable; most fires are," said Flint. "It's a matter of understanding basic fire safety rules."

Recently, the Federal Fire Department Prevention Office offered training to assist in educating Army community fire wardens. Training will continue throughout the months of March and April.

"There is a need for units to mitigate risks by ensuring units have fire marshals identified and trained for their facilities," said Lt. Col. Thomas Denzler, director, Directorate of Emergency Services (DES).

Soldiers and civilians attended the fire prevention program to gain important information to keep the military community safe.

"The best way to prevent a fire from happening is through public education and inspections," said Dave Jimenez, battalion chief, Federal Fire Department, Prevention Division, Army Services.

Training included performing a proper inspection; identifying faulty fire safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers; and preparing for a fire. Faulty wiring and common causes of fires were also addressed.

"The training was extremely informative and thorough," said Sgt. Alan Leturno, A Company, Tripler Army Medical Center (TAMC). "They covered all the basics that you would expect with fire safety, along with many topics and techniques that one could easily overlook."

Leturno is the fire warden for the barracks, Building 104, located at TAMC, and was selected by his first sergeant to participate in training. He is also the training noncommissioned officer for A Co.

Upon completion of the fire prevention program, Leturno conducted an inspection of the building to maintain the safety of the Soldiers residing in the barracks.

"My habits have changed, and I now conduct a biweekly fire safety inspection of the barracks," said Leturno. "I also speak to my Soldiers about potential fire hazards: overloaded electrical outlets and piggy backing on extension cords."

"Knowing the basics is so important," said Jimenez. "It saves lives."

Jimenez explained basic fire safety rules for Army families, stating while most of the tips may appear as common sense, the suggestions may be easy to do but are often overlooked and ignored.

Helpful hints included using smoke detectors, preferably two per household, not overloading electrical outlets or extension cords, and discussing an escape route with your family.

Families should also keep flammable liquids and hazardous materials locked up or out of reach of children and ensure everyone in the family knows the house address and how to call for emergency help, either through 911 or any other local emergency number.

The classic "stop, drop and roll" remains a lifesaving technique and a good lesson on fire safety for young children.

Denzler also addressed the issue of people parking in and around fire hydrants, stating DES is focusing on ticketing those illegally parked.

Additionally, a recent road clearance survey identified certain roads and fire lanes within Army housing that pose hazards. Parking on both sides of the street and illegal parking hinders the response of emergency vehicles called to a fire.

"The best way to fight a fire is to prevent the fire from starting," said Flint, adding, "learn not to burn."