FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Negligence is what leads to most fires in and around the home, said post officials.

Preventing fires starts with making sure everyone in the home knows what to do in case of an emergency, Steve Collins, Fort Rucker fire chief, said.

"It's important that each Family has a plan in case of a fire," the fire chief said. "Making sure to practice that plan is also an essential element."

The housing areas had four fires this year, Collins said. Most of those were due to carelessness.
"It's little things that can cause major damage," he said. "One individual left a pot in an oven and turned on the self-cleaning mechanism. It burned the pot and caused a fire."

In 2009, Installation Management Command initiated an aggressive fire safety campaign, focusing on fire safety awareness and education training. The campaign also highlighted inspecting and ensuring smoke detectors are operating correctly in all Army structures to include family housing. The campaign was successful as the number of fires and property damage on post declined significantly, according to IMCOM officials.

However, since the end of the 2009 Fire Safety Campaign, IMCOM has noted an upward trend in unattended cooking fires in Family housing on Army installations. Fifty-six structure fires have occurred since October 2009, with 33 of those being cooking-related in Family housing.

"Reports from the Fire Safety Administration indicate most home fires begin in kitchen areas," said Mario Owens, IMCOM safety director. "Given the fast pace of life today, it is very easy to forget about something cooking or not remember to clean out lint from a dryer.

"Keep your Family safe from home fires by having fire safety talks often with your Family," he added. "Make it a practice to identify and eliminate fire hazards."

Another precaution Collins recommended is having a working and up-to-date fire extinguisher.

"Families need to have at least one extinguisher in their homes and everyone should know how and when to use it," he said. "Checking dates on them to make sure they're still properly rated is important as well."

IMCOM safety officials also track what they call "an alarming number" of incidents where people have failed to report fires as quickly as possible. These delays resulted in larger blazes with greater severity, increased property loss and risks to other building occupants and responding firefighters.

According to Army Regulation 210-50, Installation Housing Management requires Family housing residents to be familiar with fire precautions and take timely corrective actions to prevent fire hazards.

Families should also conduct voluntary self-inspections, monthly fire drills and establish an accountability location outside the housing for evacuating Family members. Residents must test installed smoke detectors quarterly and provide a portable, hand-held, multipurpose fire extinguisher for permanent party housing when such housing is used as a Family child care home under the provisions of AR 608-10.

Everyone needs to know how to report fires and attend command-sponsored briefings on actions to prevent fires in housings.

"All of these regulations are focused on keeping Families safe," Collins said. "We want everyone to be as safe as possible in their homes."