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OUR VIEW: Think twice — and then think again

It happens at this time every year. A post-holiday gathering leads to a roaring fire in the fireplace and before you know it, sparks are shooting up the chimney and the roaring sounds like a freight training running through the middle of your living room. 

Or you decide to fry up a couple of eggs and dash into the other room to put clothes in the dryer, or answer the phone, or pick the baby up from his nap. And while you’re gone, the grease in the pan flares up and starts the paper toweling, or the range hood, or the cabinets on fire. 

Or maybe the sustained period of frigid weather has frozen a water pipe in your basement, or your car battery has seized up, or your well pump stops working, so you get out that old acetylene welding torch “just to warm things up a little.”

No one ever expects it, but any of these actions can — and do — result in a household fire with potentially tragic results. Cloquet Area Fire District Chief Kevin Schroeder reports that home cooking is the number one cause of household fires in the state of Minnesota and it causes 49 percent of fires across the entire United States. Chances are, chimney fires from poorly maintained chimneys and questionable home thaw-out techniques rate right up there as well. 

You can read about several recent home fires in the pages of this week’s Pine Journal. While thankfully, none led to serious injury on behalf of the homeowners, most resulted in significant damage and put the welfare of firefighters at risk in dangerously low temperatures.

None of us thinks we are capable of starting a fire. We take precautions, observe safety rules and make sure our smoke detectors are in good working order. But just as with most accidents out on the roadways, all it takes is that instant’s inattention, that momentary lack of judgment, and your future could go up in smoke. 

Wendy Johnson