After a string of Central Illinois fires, experts stress the importance of fire safety

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — Over the course of eight days, two people lost their lives in a string of at least eight fires across Central Illinois.

Monday, Nov. 22, a fire torched several businesses in downtown Farmington, including Whiskey Dixie’s and O’Brian’s Parkside Deli and Diner, which Farmington Fire Chief Matt Watters called a “total loss.”

Wednesday, Nov. 24, a tragic house fire killed 12-year-old Madelynn B. McCain in Creve Coeur.

Thanksgiving night, Thursday, Nov. 25, two fires hit Peoria, one fatally. Peoria firefighters rescued one resident of a house fire near W. Nebraska Ave. and N. Bigelow St. Later that night, the Peoria Fire Department found 66-year-old Terry Glenn Slaughter, Sr. dead in a house fire at W. Hayes St. and S. Livingston St.

Farmington’s Ashers Bar and Grille also caught fire Thursday, just a block from Monday’s fire, near the corner of Main Street and Fort Street.

Friday, Nov. 26, an apartment fire hit the B’Nai B’Rith Apartments at 215 W. Sam J. Stone Ave, where several residents had to evacuate and one was displaced.

Sunday evening, Nov. 28, Jen’s Place Bar & Grill in Brimfield experienced a minor fire, put out by bar employees, according to a Facebook post.

Monday morning, Nov. 29, Peoria firefighters rescued a resident from a fire at the 704 Spring St. apartments.

In order to raise awareness, beginning Wednesday, the Peoria Fire Department will launch the 26th annual “Keep the Wreath Red” campaign throughout the month of December. The wreaths will be decorated with red bulbs and every time there is a fire, a red bulb will be swapped out for a white one.

“The goal is to not have any white bulbs at the end of December. We have not achieved that yet, but we strive for that every year,” said Nate Rice, Division Chief of Prevention for the Peoria Fire Department. “We have a wreath on all 12 fire stations.”

He said the wreaths serve as a reminder to the community.

“And the hope is that as people are driving by a firehouse, and they see that wreath, and they see those bulbs, and maybe see some white bulbs on there, it just kind of reminds them to just be aware of the safety things in their house that they need to pay attention to,” he said.

The Assistant Fire Chief for the East Peoria Fire Department, Dan Decker, said this time of year is typically when instances of fires increase.

“Whenever you try to create heat in your home, you run the risk of whatever it is that created that heat of causing a problem,” Decker said. “But this time of year, with an increase of heat, as well as people keeping their buildings closed up because they’re trying to conserve the energy. It is easy for a fire to spread because of that.” 

Decker also said that any type of thermal heating runs the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, which can often be overlooked.

“Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. You can’t smell it. You can’t see it. But the only way you know it’s there is a detector,” he said.

Decker and Rice both warned against common household fire hazards, like dry Christmas trees, space heaters, and extension cords. They also said that with holiday cooking and baking, fires are more of a risk.

“Cooking fires are one of the leading causes of fires– not only in Peoria but nationwide. Over 50% of fires are caused by cooking fires,” Rice said. “Never leave cooking unattended. And always be aware of what you’re cooking in your kitchen.”

Decker said to be wary of grease fires.

“It catches you off guard. All of a sudden, something on the stove is catching on fire, you see it getting close to the walls, people panic. What do they do? A lot of times, they grab water. It’s one of the worst things you can do for a fire– a grease fire,” he said.

He said to stop a grease fire, put a lid on the pan or coat the fire with flour or baking soda. But if the fire starts to spread, he said it’s best to just evacuate.

“It’s not worth it. Your house isn’t worth it. It’s best just to get everybody out, call the fire department, let us deal with it,” he said.

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