Ocean County Prosecutor Issues Stern Warning Over Recent Home Fires

Ocean County Prosecutor Brad Billhimer has released the following urgent statement:

In light of the recent tragedy in Lacey Township, I feel compelled to share this important information. We have had six structure fires in Ocean County this year. Five of the six structure fires proved to be deadly. Three out of the six occurred in the past three weeks, and all three involved fatalities. Fatal fires that have shattered families, caused tragic loss of life, and have placed fire, police, and emergency service personnel at risk – all due to improper discarding of smoking material.

“Fatal, tragic, and heartbreaking.” We use these words so often, I’m afraid they’ve begun to lose their meaning. These are not simply words on paper; they are the real life consequences of routine behavior. Failure to properly put out a cigarette can have deadly consequences. Failure to properly extinguish any smoking material may set in motion a series of events that ends a life and causes the loss of your entire world. The past three weeks, we have seen mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends die in harrowing fire-related incidents. These catastrophic and life changing losses are wholly preventable. Please heed the following safety tips.

Cigarette Safety:

The place where we feel safest – at home – is where most smoking-material structure fires, deaths, and injuries occur. Smoking materials are the leading cause of fire-related deaths. Smoking material fires are preventable.

If you smoke, use only fire-safe cigarettes. If you smoke, smoke outside. Most deaths result from fires that started in living rooms, family rooms, dens, or in bedrooms.

Store cigarettes, lighters, matches, and other smoking materials up high – out of the reach of children – in a locked cabinet.

Put it out! Use a deep, sturdy ashtray. Place it away from anything that can burn.

Do not discard cigarettes in vegetation such as mulch, potted plants or landscaping, peat moss, dried grasses, leaves, or other materials that could ignite easily.

Before you throw away cigarette butts and ashes, make sure they are out completely; dousing in water or sand is the best way to do that.

Never smoke and never allow anyone to smoke where medical oxygen is used. Medical oxygen can cause materials to ignite more easily and make fires burn at a faster rate than normal. It can make an existing fire burn faster and hotter.

Hoarding Increases Fire Risks:

Cooking is unsafe if flammable items are in close proximity to the stove or oven.

Heating units may be too close to things that might burn. They might also be placed on unstable surfaces. If a heater tips over into a pile, it can cause a fire.

Electrical wiring may be old or worn from the weight of piles. Pests could chew on wires. Damaged wires can start fires.

Open flames from smoking materials or candles in a home with excess clutter are very dangerous.
Blocked pathways and exits may hinder escape from a fire. Hoarding impacts first responders’ ability to perform their tasks.

Hoarding puts first responders in harm’s way.

Firefighters cannot move swiftly through a home filled with clutter.

First responders can be trapped in a home when exits are blocked. They can be injured by objects falling from piles.

The weight of stored items – especially if water is added to put out a fire – can lead to building collapse.

Fighting fires is very risky in a hoarding home. It is very difficult to enter a home that is cluttered in order to provide medical care; clutter impedes the search and rescue of both humans and pets.

To summarize:

Most fires are totally preventable. Life is precious; please keep these safety tips in mind, and above all – please be careful.

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