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Billy Vaden has been with the Gatesville Fire Department since 1970 – 52 years of service. Vaden recently told the retired teachers gathering, “It’s the greatest job in the world. For all the bad things that may happen, it’s the good things you achieve that stay with you.”

On Thursday, Oct. 27, members of the CRSP (Coryell Retired School Personnel), heard a program presented by Fire Chief Billy Vaden addressing the topic of fire safety tips, especially for seniors.

He explained that the Gatesville Fire Department protects a 287-square mile of Coryell County, which includes the city, six TDCJ prisons and surrounding areas. They have mutual agreements with Fort Hood, Copperas Cove and seven other volunteer fire departments. GFD became an official organization on Feb. 6, 1884.

Each year in the United States, fire claims over 6,000 lives and causes about $6 billion in damages. Many of these victims are senior citizens over 60 years of age. According to FEMA, adults over 65 are 2.6 times more likely to die in a fire, and this increases to 3.8 times for those 85 and above. This is possibly due to physical limitations that restrict ability to take quick action in an emergency, medication that affects decision-making ability, living alone without others to assist and excessive accumulation of possessions. However, everyone (not only seniors) should be prepared to prevent fires and to know what to do in case of a fire.

Some of the measures he listed include the following:

  • Have ample smoke alarms installed in your house. Check monthly to see that they are working and remember to change the batteries. Especially for seniors, it is good to have a smoke alarm on all floors of the house, including one in each bedroom and hallway. Many smoke alarms now have carbon monoxide detectors with them.
  • Watch use of space heaters. Don’t use them as a main source of heat, and don’t leave them running at night when you are asleep. Don’t place them at exits or stairways, where they can block exit or can be tripped over.
  • Have a fire escape plan for your family. Be sure to take into consideration anyone who is limited in ability to get out. Practice your plan, and make sure everyone knows what to do. In case of a fire, make sure everyone is out before dialing 911.
  • If you are cooking food, stay with it and do not leave it unattended (especially seniors who may be forgetful). Do not leave cords dangling off the counter or handles of cooking equipment hanging away from the oven.
  • Careless smoking is the leading cause of deaths and the second leading cause of injuries among people 65 and older. Smoking and relaxing can be a deadly combination.
  • Do not leave matches and lighters where children can reach them.
  • Check all electrical outlets and extension and appliance cords. Do not overload sockets, and make sure wires are not frayed or exposed. Don’t let machines overheat.
  • Don’t leave burning candles unattended.
  • Close bedroom doors at night.
  • Be careful when using equipment such as grinders that cause sparks.
  • Fire extinguishers can be helpful for small fires. Know how to use them. If a fire occurs, ensure everyone is escaping, and call 911 before using the extinguisher. An ABC-type extinguisher is good for general home protection, and the BC type with a sodium bicarbonate extinguishing agent cleans up relatively easy for kitchen fires.