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Around the Town State Fire Marshall says ‘Prevent Fires. It’s your job.’

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By Dick Pust
FTE News Magazine
State Fire Marshal Chuck Duffy is a private man. His goal is to be the best he can be at his job, which has to do with preventing fires. The trademarked motto for the Office of the State Fire Marshal is “Prevent fires. It’s your job.” Duffy is proud of the fact that, under his watch, structure fires have shown a drop in Washington State.

With the holiday season fast approaching, the chance of a fire happening in your home increases. The Fire Marshal’s office has zeroed in the popular turkey fryer as a major hazard. A press release from that office quotes information from John Drengenberg of the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) regarding turkey fryers. He says, “Based on our test findings, the fryers used to produce those great tasting birds are not worth the risks. And, as a result of these tests, the UL has decided not to certify any turkey fryers with our trusted UL mark.” The reasons are many. Here are just a few. Many units easily tip over, spilling hot oil from the cooking pot. The lid and handles on the sides of the cook pot are dangerously hot, posing severe burn hazards. With no thermostat controls, the units have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion. But, if you insist on using them anyway, here are a couple of suggestions to keep yourself safer. Use the fryer only outdoors at a safe distance from buildings or any flammable materials. Never use it in a garage or on a wood deck.

Turkey fryers aren’t the only hazard we should consider during the holidays. With the Christmas holiday season just around the corner, the Fire Marshal’s office would like to remind residents to be fire safe with their holiday decorations, specially Christmas trees. Improper care and decoration of a live or artificial tree can lead to a catastrophic fire. Duffy says, “It takes only seconds for a tree to ignite and the entire room to become engulfed in flames.” Duffy says fire prevention is usually just a matter of common sense. Never-the-less, “The same stuff keeps happening year after year. The last thing you want to be dealing with on a holiday is a fire.”

Duffy has been interested in fire fighting and fire prevention nearly all his life. He started out as a volunteer fire fighter. He got his first formal training while in the Air Force reserve and became a career fire fighter in 1983 with the Renton Fire Department. Duffy retried from there as Deputy Chief in 2008. That same year, he began working for the State Fire Marshal’s office in Olympia as a deputy. In 2010 State Patrol Chief John Batiste appointed Duffy as the State Fire Marshal, a job he truly loves. He likes to call attention to the mounted fire axe on his wall. “I have the only axe in the building,” he jokes.

The Fire Marshal’s office is actually a Bureau within the Washington State Patrol. It has around 46 employees in its Preparedness and Prevention division and another 50 or so at its Fire Training Academy in North Bend. There are also field offices around the state. The office provides fire and life safety inspections in licensed care facilities including nursing homes, hospitals, and child care centers. They also license the fireworks and sprinkler industries. Duffy suggested I might do a future story on the Training Academy in North Bend. He said our state’s citizens would be impressed with the way the academy trains its fire fighters at that facility.

The Fire Marshal is a big believer in smoke detectors. He says they are extremely effective and cheap to put in. Duffy also likes home sprinkler systems. He says they can stop a fire from spreading and give someone more time to escape when every second can mean the difference between life and death.

So. . . be safe this holiday season. Use good common sense when it comes to the use of flammables. We at the FTE News Magazine want our readers to be around for another year and much longer.

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