Fire department captures national award for fourth year in a row

Sep. 04, 2014 @ 03:55 PM

Henderson Fire Department earned a national award for completing another year with zero fire deaths.

For the past four years, it has received the Life Safety Achievement award from the National Association of State Fire Marshals Fire Research and Education Foundation, which aims to reduce residential fire deaths and injuries.

To qualify for the award, fire departments must record zero fire deaths in residential structures or a 10 percent reduction of fire deaths from the prior year.

“One of the biggest things that helps us is being able to educate the community on the possible fire hazards,” said Jon Juntunen, fire and life safety educator at the fire department.

The department conducts year-long door-to-door home inspections that are free of charge.

“We install or replace smoke alarms and change batteries,” he said. “Along with that while we are in the house, we do a basic inspection to make sure the home is free of fire hazards.”

Smoke alarms that are 10 years old should be replaced, he said.

“I’ve been pretty fortunate in that we’ve had a lot of companies donate smoke alarms and batteries and other items we need to continue to have the program,” he said.

Fire prevention is another aspect of the department’s educational programs.

Juntunen said they go to schools, community groups and churches to make presentations on fire prevention, including activities like fire extinguisher training.

Although residential fires in the U.S. account for only 20 percent of all fires, they result in 80 percent of all deaths.

Since 1994, the Life Safety Achievement award has been given in recognition of fire departments with outstanding fire safety statistics and effective fire prevention programs during the preceding calendar year.

“The heroic efforts of our local fire service aren’t limited to rushing into burning buildings to save families,” wrote Alan Clark, assistant vice president of Special Investigations for Grinnell Mutual, in a press release. “They also present educational information to local schools and other community groups to make sure people know how to respond to fires and how to prevent them in the first place. The Life Safety Achievement Award recognizes fire departments for their fire prevention programs that have proven to save lives year after year.”

Since its inception, the Life Safety Achievement award was granted to any fire department that achieved zero fire deaths in the previous calendar year.

More than 1.3 million fires were reported in the U.S. in 2012, according to data form the National Fire Protection Association.

These fires caused 2,855 civilian deaths, 16,500 civilian injuries, and more than $12 billion in property damage.

Henderson Fire Department is one of 143 departments across the country to receive the award.

“It’s a department effort,” Juntunen said. “That is the great thing about it; it’s not one single person.”

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.