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A few moments worth taking

Posted: January 28, 2014 9:03 a.m.
Updated: January 29, 2014 5:00 a.m.

When I arrived at work Monday morning, I found a sticky note message on my desk from my boss that reminded me to turn off my space heater when leaving work. Apparently I had left it running when I left on Friday. Upon reading that, my stomach literally felt like the bottom fell out … you know the feeling of being on an amusement park ride and taking a sudden drop. That’s what I felt.

The reason for this feeling was the sudden realization that I could have been responsible for a fire. Something as careless as leaving a space heater running can prove very dangerous. At this time of year, I have heard account after account of fires reported, with so many cases seeing the culprit to be a space heater or faulty heating system.

When I was in high school, a classmate suffered a great loss when she and her parents moved into a newly built home. I’m not sure exactly what month it was, but I know it was during the winter and it was a particularly cold one. There was some problem with the heating system and the house caught fire while they were sleeping one night. They were able to get out safely, but lost the majority of their possessions.

Back then, it sounded horrible to me to think about losing everything I owned. With insurance they were able to get into a new house and restore everything they needed, but I always thought about the things that couldn’t be replaced -- her parents’ wedding albums and her baby pictures, along with countless family heirlooms and artifacts. It’s staggering to think how quickly and irreversibly an entire collection of memories and relics can be wiped out like that.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in there about not allowing material goods and possessions to claim too much importance in our lives and that seems to be a lesson from which every American can benefit. Still, what I focus on more, is how a fire has the ability to take everything from us and makes us vulnerable beyond recognition.

In my classmate’s case, the fire was not one that could have been prevented. Faulty wiring and insulation in a new home were factors totally beyond her and her family’s control. Yet, many fires are preventable and that’s a fact we can never allow ourselves to forget.

Whenever we leave our homes and offices, we should double check to make sure any type of space heater is turned off. When I left my house this morning, I checked a series of things (I do this every time I leave) to make sure they were off: the coffee pot, my bedroom space heater, the dryer and my flat iron.

The truth is, fires can and <italic> have </italic> been started in numerous instances by each of the above-listed appliances. Even though I rarely use my flat iron in the morning, I still check to make sure it’s not only turned off, but unplugged. Also, a tip I heard from another hair-straightening friend, for all you out there who regularly use a flat iron -- remember to clean them on a consistent basis (once they’ve cooled, of course). By clean them, I mean wipe off the accumulated crud that lingers around the ceramic heating plates. All this crud is residue from whatever heat protection products you put in your hair before straightening. Yes, these products are fantastic for saving your hair follicles from heat damage, but over time, with continued exposure to heat, they can become flammable.

Smokey the Bear reminds us to do what we can to prevent forest fires, but we also need to remind ourselves of all that we can do to prevent house fires. The best winter is a safe winter. It only takes a few moments in the morning to double check that your appliances are turned off. In my opinion, those are a few moments well worth taking.

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