This is the text of a Bulletin I sent on May 12, 2011, to everyone on my email list. Please read it and follow it! if you are not on the list and want to be, see the Welcome page, just below the big photo.

Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association Bulletin

Yesterday the communities of Sheenboro and Chichester suffered their third house fire, another total loss, in as many months. Many are talking about fire safety, which is usually pretty much of a yawner in most circles.

Sam Hungate, son of Fredi and Mark, sent me some guidelines and tips regarding fire safety, and he also provided an excellent Web link on the subject. I implore that all of you read it, act on it, and send this message on to your friends. 

Here is Sam's list (italic comments are my additions):

  1. Keep lawns trimmed, leaves raked, and the roof and rain-gutters free from debris such as dead limbs and leaves.

  2. Stack firewood at least 30 feet away from your home.

  3. Store flammable materials, liquids, and solvents in metal containers outside the home at least 30 feet away from structures and wooden fences.

  4. Create defensible space by thinning trees and brush within 30 feet around your home.

  5. Landscape your property with fire-resistant plants and vegetation to prevent fire from spreading quickly.

  6. Post civic address signs that are clearly visible from the road. If your sign is missing, faded, or in need of repair, contact the Municipality immediately.

  7. Provide emergency vehicle access with properly constructed driveways and roadways, at least 12 feet wide with adequate turnaround space. I've seen some pretty awful driveways around Sheenboro. Fix them! Every minute the fire truck spends trying to get in there is a minute it's not putting out the fire.

  8. Burning yard waste is a fire hazard. Sheenboro (not sure about Chichester) prohibits any fires larger than a campfire and does not provide burning permits. I know many who are freaked out by their neighbours' fires. Please use common sense and consideration, and keep a garden hose handy and ready for immediate use.

In another email, Sam wrote:

• Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors! (Believe it or not, people are silly enough to run gas machinery in closed areas such as homes/garages/sheds, etc.)

• Make sure you have working Smoke Detectors! (Check those batteries! Don't borrow batteries for your flashlight or anything else!) Do some reading on smoke detectors; there are two kinds, and you should have both for total assurance.

 • Scary fact: A fire can double in size every minute, and it often takes 2-5 minutes for a smoke detector to activate!

The gist of the story: be prepared for fire, don't think it can't happen to you. Fires happen all the time to people who are unprepared. Sheenboro-Chichester has a wonderful fire department, but they can only do so much. By the time they get their equipment to your house, upwards of 10+ minutes has gone by. Learn how to defend/protect your house.

If a fire does occur, get out and STAY OUT! In today's homes/cottages/houses etc., there are always dangerous plastics/solvents, and when they burn they produce toxic gases! Remember that the fire may not be the thing that kills you, but the smoke will!


Please take all of these tips seriously, and I hope that we don't have to hear about your house/cabin burning down!



Sam Hungate

(Great Barrington [Massachusetts] Fire Department - Firefighter/Fire Inspector)

Thank you, Sam, for doing this.

Here's another thought of my own for both burglary and fire preparedness: Get out your digital camera and shoot photos of everything in your home and cottage: furniture, carpets. open drawers, open closet doors, shoot closeups of your CDs, bookshelves, china, silver, art, everything. It won't take more than an hour. Download the photos onto a CD and keep a copy in another location, far away! It's a pain in the neck, but keep a list of everything you own that is major or significant and/or has a serial number, with the date you bought it and what you paid for it. Don't forget your boat, motor, snowblower, whatever. A simple Excel spreadsheet or even a Word document is all you need. Put it on the same CD, and update the pictures and the record every year or as you think necessary. Do it! Not someday, but this weekend!

Nudge your neighbours, too. if their stovepipe looks shaky, tell them. If their driveway is a sharp right-angle turn from a narrow lane that can barely fit  a car, tell them! It's easy to overlook stuff that you see every day. Blame it on Sam and me. We can handle it.

Three families in the area have recently proven that it can happen to you.

Nag, nag. Please do it.

Thank you,