Association members hear fire safety advice


Cooking accidents, cigarette smoking and faulty wiring are among the most common causes of home fires, according to Tom Devaney of the Chicago Fire Department’s Public Education Unit.

Devaney gave fire prevention tips at the July 27 meeting of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association. About 25 people attended the meeting, which was held at the Congregational Church of Jefferson Park, 5320 W. Giddings St.

While the rate of cigarette-related fires has declined in recent years, unattended cooking and a failure to hire an electrician continue to be the cause too many fires, Devaney said. "People try to repair the wiring themselves," he said.

Devaney said that there are few arsons on the Northwest Side but that in some instances a prank, such as setting a garbage can on fire, may get out of control because the can is close to a garage. "They didn’t mean to burn down your garage out of anger," he said.

A smoldering cigarette or charcoal also can cause a fire. "It takes about 2 hours, and then all of sudden the side of your garage is burning," Devaney said.

Several residents mentioned a recent incident in which a home owner damaged the side of his neighbor’s house because he was grilling next to the house.

A department flier stated the following safety tips: grill away from homes and garages, do not spray lighter fluid on flames, do not leave cooking unattended, keep children and pets at least 5 feet away and place charcoal in a metal container and douse it with water.

According to the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance, 85 percent of fire-related deaths occur in homes, and many of the fires occur while residents are sleeping, Devaney said.

Home owners should install smoke detectors in or near any room in which people sleep, and batteries should be checked once a month, Devaney said. "I recommend that you have these on every floor of your house," he said.

Also at the meeting, it was reported that the association is continuing to collect signatures on a petition opposing a proposed 13-story mixed-use building at the northeast corner of Lipps Avenue and Ainslie Street, next to the Jefferson Park CTA terminal. Association members have express concern that the project would increase traffic congestion and detract from the quality of life for residents.

The association also has been distributing "no upzoning" lawn signs in opposition to a four-story, 48-unit apartment building planned for the northeast corner of Argyle Street and Long Avenue, adjacent to the Jefferson Park Metra station. Opponents said that the former industrial site is on a block that consists predominantly of single-family homes and two-flats.

It also was announced that the Illinois Attorney General’s Office has denied the association’s request that Alderman John Arena (45th) be required to open his advisory committee meetings to the public. The committee advises Arena on zoning and other issues.

The office ruled that the committee does not have to adhere to the Illinois Open Meetings Act because an elected official does not constitute a public body. An Arena aide has said that keeping the meetings closed to the public encourages a free dialogue.