SAN ANTONIO — With structure fires up 26 percent in San Antonio this year, fire safety educators say the need for life saving reminders is more important than ever.
Statistics released by the fire department show the most dramatic increase in fires has been in City Council District 5 on the south west side, where fires are up from 46 last year to 76 this year during the first 90 days of 2022.
So Friday morning, firefighters took their message into the heart of the community at the Normoyle Senior Center.
Lt. Rene Aguirre told the crowd "We'd just like to go over a couple of things - just a general fire safety talk," adding "We don't have any new demons that are causing these fires."
Aguirre said during the pandemic, when people were isolated in their homes, many people may have become complacent, especially senior citizens.
"We're trying to get back to education, reminding you to not only be safe but, you know, to check on your family," Aguirre said.
Aguirre talked about the need for home smoke detectors, making sure there is a clear path of escape, having an action plan and watching out for neighbors.
Reminding the seniors about every day dangers, Aguirre said common mistakes can lead to tragic consequences. He cited leaving burners unattended on stoves, leaving candles too close to flammables, smoking in bed and not properly quenching fires in BBQ pits.
Normoyle regular Laura Nalls said she was delighted with the presentation.
"The most important thing is they can come to your house and check your equipment! I had no clue, and they can come and check your house for free. My goodness! What else? I didn't know they could do that," Nalls said.
Sylvia Martinez added "They gave us very good ideas and making sure that we tell other people, not just ourselves. To make sure we let everybody else know about it. "
Frank Castaneda said he was very grateful, not just for the helpful information, but for all the things first responders do for the community every day.
Minnie Castaneda said she was comforted to know that if she had an emergency, help would arrive quickly.
"If there's a fire and the gate's locked, they'll get in," Castaneda said, adding she planned on sharing some of the things she learned with her grandchildren.
The firefighters said it's important for all children to know their addresses and the proper names of their parents.
"I know my grandkids call me grandma," Castaneda said, adding that would do little good if she was having a medical emergency.
One tip for motivating children to learn their parents phone numbers was using them as passcodes for coveted electronic toys and devices. They say if a child needs to relay a number in an emergency, they are much more likely to remember something they have used on a daily basis.
The Fire Department has a dedicated web page with plenty of tips on how to be safe.