The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

Public Safety

Signpost Cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert

Winter fire safety tips


In 2006, fire departments responded to 412,500 home fires in the United States in the place we feel safest—our homes. These fires claimed the lives of 2,580 people (not including firefighters) and injured another 12,925, also not including firefighters.

Most victims die from smoke or toxic fumes, not from burns. Smoking is the leading cause of fire-related deaths. Cooking is the leading cause of residential fires.

Winter time is holiday time. That means lots of cooking, lots of entertaining and, unfortunately, lots of opportunities for house fires to occur.

The high cost of home heating fuels and utilities have caused many Americans to search for alternate sources of home heating. The use of wood burning stoves is growing and space heaters are selling rapidly, or coming out of storage. Fireplaces are burning wood and man-made logs. All these methods of heating may be acceptable. They are, however, a major contributing factor in residential fires. The following fire safety tips can help you maintain a fire-safe home this winter.

When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness—make sure the needles are soft and don’t fall off. Live trees need water, and lots of it. Cut about one inch off of the bottom of the trunk before putting the tree in the stand. Add water and check daily. If the water level drops below the cut end of the tree, a seal will form on the cut and the tree will not be able to absorb any more water. Remove the tree from your home as soon as possible. Most Christmas tree fires occur on or after New Year’s Day.

Have the chimney inspected annually and cleaned if necessary, as creosote from previous fires can ignite. Don’t use excessive amounts of paper to build roaring fires in fireplaces, especially if they have not been used for some time. Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace, as they can burn extremely quickly, throwing off sparks, and igniting creosote in the chimney. If synthetic logs are used, never break a synthetic log apart to quicken the fire, and never use more than one log at a time. They often burn unevenly, releasing higher levels of carbon monoxide.

Before you go to sleep, be sure your fireplace fire is out. Never close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace. A closed damper will help the fire to heat up again and will force toxic carbon monoxide into the house.

One of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from a house fire is by having working smoke detectors in your home. By providing early warning of fire, smoke detectors can double your chances of escaping a fire safely. Test and vacuum your smoke detectors monthly. Only a working smoke detector can save your life. Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors at the time change, twice a year. Install smoke detectors on each level of your home and in sleeping areas. Smoke alarms ten years old or older need to be replaced with new units.

Don’t use your oven or stove to heat your house. Never use extension cords with portable electric heaters. This is a common cause of fires. Keep at least a three-foot clearance from any combustibles.

Being awakened by a smoke detector can be a frightening and disorienting experience even for adults, so plan your escape before it is an emergency. First of all, make sure everyone knows what your smoke detector sounds like. Test it in front of the entire family.

Plan at least two ways out from each room, especially the bedrooms. Agree on a place to meet outside the house or apartment building so you’ll know when everyone is out.

Have everyone rehearse the plan regularly. Practice escape with all family members, including a nighttime drill. If windows are used as emergency exits in your home, practice using them in the event fire should strike. Be sure that all windows open easily. In case of a real fire, get out of the house immediately. Once at the meeting place, have one person go to a neighbor’s phone to call the fire department by dialing 911. In addition to telling them your name and address, tell them if anyone is still in the house.

After a party, always check on, between, and under upholstery and cushions and inside trash cans for smoking materials that may be smoldering.

Install a carbon monoxide detector if you have any appliance or device that has a flame: stove, water heater, furnace, fireplace, space heater, etc.

When the smoke alarm sounds, get out fast! Once out, stay out!

The Fire Department urges all property owners, lessees, and renters to clear snow or vegetation from any fire hydrants in front of their buildings. All too often hydrants are buried under snow or hidden by vegetation. Delays in fire companies locating hydrants and getting water on a fire will endanger the lives of both firefighters and civilians.

Placitas Volunteer Fire Brigade plans expansion


The Placitas Volunteer Fire Brigade held elections in December and voted on the Chief and Assistant Chief positions for the next two year term. Re-elected as chief was Bud Brinkerhoff, Sal Gullo was elected Assistant Chief-Fire and Sandy Escarcida was elected Assistant Chief-EMS. These officers will be guiding the department through some significant changes in the coming months and years.

The Placitas Volunteer Fire Brigade has been steadily building its equipment base and service capability with the goal of moving our district from a 7/9 ISO rating to a 5/7 ISO rating. Such a rating change would translate into hundreds of dollars reduction in the fire insurance rates for all homeowners in the area. The absence of fire hydrants in much of our area means that the only practical means of rating reduction is the ability to transport significant water to the site of a potential structure fire in a short period of time.

The Placitas Fire service is planning a two-bay addition to the main station located near mile marker 5 on highway 165. This station is strategically near the center of our district and can respond quickly to the majority of service areas in the various subdivisions and developments of Placitas. It is within a minutes driving distance from the actual village of Placitas community. The practicality of providing additional bay space at this location is readily apparent. The existing structure provides three bays and houses a rescue, a fire engine and a water transport tender.

The Brigade currently has additional fire apparatus, but lacks the facilities to park them in a facility that would prevent water freezing in the pumping mechanisms. Even our rescue units must be garaged in a temperature controlled environment due to the medical equipment and supplies on board.

It has been estimated that the construction of a two-bay addition to the main station may cost $300,000 or more. We would like the addition to closely match the existing structure, using the same stucco and roofing material. An architect is currently working on the plans and we hope to put the project out to bid early in 2008 and construction of the bay addition complete by the end of 2008.

The Placitas Fire Brigade has already established partial funding for the two bay addition and has set aside for this project an amount greater than $200,000. We hope to raise the balance needed for the bay addition with a community fundraising effort starting immediately. Residents of the greater Placitas community have always been generous and very supportive of the fire service. We also provide significant mutual aid to Bernalillo, Algodones, Corrales, Rio Rancho and the local Pueblos. Hopefully this special Building Expansi on Donation Drive will provide us with the funding needed to complete this project and enhance our service capability to the area.

Rio Rancho fire protection rating improves


On December 20, the City of Rio Rancho’s Fire and Rescue Department received notification that the city’s Insurance Service Organization (ISO) rating will be lowered from Class 4 to Class 3 beginning in the spring of 2008. This change indicates that the city is improving its capability to respond to fires. This lower rating also means that Rio Rancho commercial and residential property insurance premiums will be eligible for decreases as well.

ISO is one of the nation’s leading sources for information about risk. ISO collects information related to municipal fire protection throughout the United States. When reviewing a fire department, ISO analyzes relevant data using their Fire Suppression Rating Schedule (FSRS). This schedule considers and scores several critical areas of a community’s fire protection. This includes how well a fire department receives and dispatches fire alarms, the amount and type of training fire department personnel receive, maintenance and testing of equipment, geographic distribution of fire stations, and possessing a sufficient water supply for fire suppression.

After an assessment is completed, a Public Protection Classification (PPC) rating from 1 to 10 is assigned. Class 1 represents exemplary public protection; while a Class 10 rating indicates that a municipality’s fire resources do not meet ISO’s minimum standards.

“This new classification is a product of the city’s Fire and Rescue Department working diligently to lower its rating. We have increased our training, response, documentation, and equipment to reach this goal. Out of 518 fire departments that have received a PPC rating in the state of New Mexico, there are only nine rated at Class 3 or better. Nationwide, less than five percent are rated Class 3 or lower. I am extremely proud that we can provide Rio Rancho residents a premier fire department,” said Fire and Rescue Department Director Jim Tobin.

ISO collects information useful in many aspects of insurance underwriting. This includes evaluations of public fire protection, flood risk, and the adoption and enforcement of building codes in individual communities. Evaluations are performed as a service to the insurance industry and municipalities are not charged a fee for this service. Nearly all United States’ insurers of homes and business property use ISO’s PPC rating to calculate premiums. The price of insurance in a community with a good PPC rating is lower than in a community with a poor PPC rating. ISO conducts and has extensive information on more than forty-four-thousand individual fire jurisdictions.

The city’s Fire and Rescue Department provides fire fighting and emergency medical services for over 104 square miles. The department has ninety-eight total staff members. There are four fire stations located throughout Rio Rancho, with a new station scheduled to open in the Mariposa community (located off of Unser Boulevard) in 2008.

New Mexico teams up with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to combat DWI

Governor Bill Richardson announced in December that New Mexico law enforcement officers will kick off a holiday season DWI Super Blitz from Friday, December 21 through January 6, 2008. During the Holiday Super Blitz, there will be increased saturation patrols and more sobriety checkpoints, combined with intense messaging aimed at deterring drunk driving.

The New Mexico Holiday Super Blitz coincides with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs “Don’t Shatter the Dream” Native American National DWI mobilization, which runs from December 21 through January 4.

“Over the holidays, we have to be especially vigilant because so many families are on the road,” said Governor Richardson. “Don’t spend your holidays behind bars. Remember: You Drink, You Drive, You Lose.”

Along with the Super Blitz, DWI Czar Rachel O’Connor announced three new initiatives aimed at reducing drunk driving in Native American communities.

The first is a “cross-commissioning” agreement between the Navajo Nation and the McKinley County Sheriff’s Office to allow officers from the Navajo Nation to patrol for suspected drunk drivers in McKinley County, and for McKinley County officers to patrol for drunk drivers on Navajo lands.

Secondly, through the efforts of the Governor’s State/Tribal DWI Task Force, arrest information will now be shared between the State and the Pueblo of Laguna. “I want to thank Laguna Pueblo Governor John Antonio for his leadership in working to reduce DWI,” said Rachel O’Connor. “DWI offenders arrested on Pueblo land will now be sub-ject to having their licenses revoked by the State Motor Vehicle Division. We hope to eventually work with all tribes and pueblos in New Mexico.”

Lastly, the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) has launched a special billboard advertising campaign in the Four Corners region. Billboards of the popular Native American comedy team of James and Ernie will be posted in Gallup, Grants, Farmington, and Shiprock. The signs will read: “I care if you die in a drunk driving crash.” The Department of Transportation hopes to expand the billboard campaign to include other Native American celebrities, including Roger Willie, Brandon Leslie, and Gary Farmer.

For more information, contact Rachel O’Connor, at (505) 699-0748, or Tom Trowbridge at (505) 470-8357.



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