EVERETT — Every time their mom accidentally burns the bacon, the kids head outside.
They practice walking calmly to a prearranged meeting spot in the front yard.
The students shared their practice plan with Snohomish County Fire District 7’s Heather Chadwick when she visited their school to chat about fire safety.
Fire departments are encouraging families to plan an escape route, and to practice it at least twice a year. People have less time to get out of a burning building than they used to.
“The construction of homes nowadays make fires burn faster and hotter,” Chadwick said. “Every second does count.”
Firefighters used to have about 15 minutes until they’d start to worry about flames consuming a house. That time frame has narrowed to two or three minutes, Chadwick said.
Modern homes and furniture are typically built with synthetic materials, including plastic, glue and foam. Those are more flammable than traditional building materials such as wood.
A dangerously dry summer has only added to the risk of fires. Thousands of acres of land were scorched this season because of wildfires.
Though rain and cooler temperatures were forecast for the remainder of the week, much of the county remains dry.
“Even though there are no burn bans, we’re encouraging people to be very cautious and aware that embers can fly with any gust of wind,” Chadwick said. “Our grass is still very brown.”
Firefighters throughout the county are hosting open houses and visiting schools to talk with folks in honor of fire prevention week.
The newly formed South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue has invited households to design their escape plans at an event on Saturday. Families can map out their home, marking two exits from each room and a path to an outside meeting spot, such as the mailbox or a tree.
“In a fire, seconds can mean the difference between residents of our community escaping safely from a fire or having their lives end in tragedy,” said the agency’s Fire Chief Bruce Stedman.
Firefighters remind people to close doors on their way out. It could slow the spread of smoke and flames.
They encourage parents to talk with their kids so that they know what to do in an emergency, especially if a parent can’t help them to safety.
Parents have told Chadwick that these conversations have opened doors to other talks about fire safety, such as the dangers of electric heaters.
Every year, Chadwick sees a bump in the number of fires, especially as those heaters are roused awake after a summer of disuse. She recommends people create a “moat” around heaters. That means distancing newspapers, blankets, clothing or anything else that could catch fire about three feet away.
Portable heaters also are designed to be plugged directly into the wall. Using an extension cord can increase the chances of a fire.
Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; ctompkins @heraldnet.com.
The Everett Fire Department plans additional open house events Thursday at Fire Station 4 at 5920 Glenwood Ave. and Friday at Fire Station 6, 9520 Evergreen Way. Each event runs from 6:30 to 8 p.m.