Cottonwood Heights is a proud member city of the Unified Fire Authority. Our city houses two fire stations, Station 110 and Station 116. Our UFA liaison is Assistant Chief Mike Watson.
To learn more about UFA, please see their website at www.unifiedfire.org.
Monthly Fire Statistics Report
Spring Fire Safety
As spring approaches, thoughts turn to cleaning up from the long winter and making repairs around the home while enjoying the outdoors. Keeping a few safety thoughts in mind will help you make your experience much more enjoyable.
Inside the Home:
Check and clean your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Check your fire extinguishers.
Check for overloaded or damaged extension cords.
Prepare for storm related outages (make sure your flashlights and portable radios have batteries and that other supplies, such as bottled water, are stocked and available).
Practice exit drills with your family so everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency.
Properly store household chemicals and never mix cleaning agents.
Outside and Around the Yard:
Make sure your house address numbers are up and visible from the street
Clean up yard debris. Cut back dead limbs and grasses.
Maintain a clear “fire zone” of ten feet around structures. Clean up leaves and debris and consider using stone or non-combustible mulches.
Check outdoor electrical outlets and other electrical appliances.
Get your grill cleaned and serviced. Check all propane tanks and lines for leaks and damage.
Keep 100 feet of garden hose with an attached nozzle connected and ready for use.
In the Garage or Shed:
Clean up and properly store paints and pool and yard chemicals.
Check fuel containers for leaks and make sure they are properly stored.
Have all power equipment cleaned, serviced and readied for use.
Dryer Vent Safety
Clothes dryers evaporate the water from wet clothing by blowing hot air past them while they tumble inside a spinning drum. Heat is provided by an electrical heating element or gas burner. Some heavy garment loads can contain more than a gallon of water which, during the drying process, will become airborne water vapor and leave the dryer through an exhaust duct (more commonly known as a dryer vent).
A vent that exhausts moist air to the home exterior should meet the following requirements:
1. It should be connected. The connection is usually behind the dryer but may be beneath it. Look carefully to make sure it’s actually connected!
2. It should not be restricted. Dryer vents are often made from flexible plastic or metal duct, which may be easily kinked or crushed where they exit the dryer and enter the wall or floor. This is often a problem since dryers tend to be tucked away into small areas with little room to work. Vent hardware is available which is designed to turn 90° in a limited space without restricting the flow of exhaust air. Restrictions should be noted in the inspector's report. Airflow restrictions are a potential fire hazard!
3. One of the reasons that restrictions are a potential fire hazard is that, along with water vapor evaporated out of wet clothes, the exhaust stream carries lint – highly flammable particles of clothing made of cotton and polyester. Lint can accumulate in an exhaust duct, reducing the dryer’s ability to expel heated water vapor, which then accumulates as heat energy within the machine. As the dryer overheats, mechanical failures can trigger sparks, which can cause lint trapped in the dryer vent to burst into flames. This condition can cause the whole house to burst into flames! Fires generally originate within the dryer but spread by escaping through the ventilation duct, incinerating trapped lint, and following its path into the building wall.
Studies show that house fires caused by dryers are far more common than are generally believed. Fires caused by dryers in 2005 were responsible for approximately 13,775 house fires, 418 injuries, 15 deaths, and $196 million in property damage. Most of these incidents occur in residences and are the result of improper lint cleanup and maintenance. Fortunately, these fires are very easy to prevent.
*Facts provided by nachi.org
Radon Gas: a silent but preventable threat
What if your home had been invaded without your knowledge by an enemy you couldn’t detect with any of your senses? There would be no way to protect yourself until it was too late and the unthinkable happened.
Cottonwood Heights resident Charlie McQuinn dealt with this very scenario. The culprit: radon gas. The odorless, colorless and tasteless gas had built up in his home without his knowledge. As a result, he was diagnosed with lymphoma a year ago after doctors found cancerous tumors in both his lungs and his abdomen.
“After four rounds of chemo, the tumor in my lungs was growing and the one in my abdomen was shrinking,” said McQuinn, a non-smoker. “My doctor told me, ‘The likely cause is radon gas in your home. You need to have it checked.’ I had heard about radon before, but I hadn’t even thought of that.”
Radon gas is created when the uranium in granite breaks down into radium, which then decays into radon. The radioactive gas moves up through the soil into the atmosphere where it disperses and presents little concern. However, when it seeps into a building, it can accumulate and present a health concern for occupants.
The surgeon general has warned that excessive radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today, and excessive levels have been found in all fifty states. In Utah, approximately 30 percent of homes have radon levels that are above the EPA recommended action standard of four pico-Curies per liter of air (pCi/L).
In Cottonwood Heights, 621 homes had been tested for radon as of March 2011. Of those 621 homes, 29.6 percent of the tests showed levels greater than four pCi/L.
Some residents, including McQuinn, choose to install a sub-slab depressurization system. A hole is drilled into the foundation of the home, and a PVC pipe with a constantly-running fan create a venting system that draws the gas out from under the structure and disperses it into the atmosphere.
Utah residents can get a testing kit for just six dollars through the state’s radon website, www.radon.utah.gov. If needed, sub-slab depressurization systems usually cost between $1200 and $1300 and are installed by private contractors.
As for McQuinn, he is now cancer-free, and because of the sub-slab depressurization system, radon levels in his home now hover at a very safe 0.8 pCi/L. He says he wouldn’t change his experience because of the miracles he says he’s witnessed in the last year. However, he is using his experiences to urge others to take action so they don’t have to deal with the same consequences he and his family have suffered.
“I knew about it, I didn’t take it seriously, and I got lung cancer,” he said.
A Citizen's Guide to Radon Booklet (EPA)
Consumer's Guide to Radon Reduction/How to Fix your Home (EPA)