Ocean City Fire Department Issues Reminders After Recent Fatal Fires

Ocean City Fire Department Issues Reminders After Recent Fatal Fires
File photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – Have a working smoke alarm. Practice an escape plan. Identify a meeting spot.

These are just some of the things first responders say residents can do to protect themselves and their families in the event of a house fire.

“Fire can occur at any time,” said Ocean City Fire Department spokesman Ryan Whittington. “It can happen in your house tonight. Prepare now so you and your family members don’t die. Working smoke alarms can save your life.”

In the last week, reports of fatal apartment fires in both Philadelphia and the Bronx made national news. Whittington said the events serve as a reminder for all residents to have smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on each level of their home – and within each bedroom, for maximum protection – and to test them monthly.

“It also is important to practice good habits. Don’t leave candles on. Don’t leave the stove unattended while cooking. Maintain your heating equipment. Utilize grills away from structures and decks,” he said. “I also cannot stress the importance of talking about fire safety with your family and practicing your escape plan with everyone who lives in your home.”

Whittington said cooking fires and appliance fires appear to be the leading cause of local fire incidents.

In 2021, the fire department responded to 82 building and appliance fires, of which 27 led to fire marshal investigations within town limits to determine origin and cause. And while there were no fatalities last year, Whittington noted both firefighters and civilians sustained injuries in some of those incidents.

“The number of dispatched building fires is fairly consistent throughout the year,” he added. “There does appear to be an uptick in dispatched building fires in June and July, likely due to the population surge. Interestingly, a good chunk of those during that time were mutual aid to other jurisdictions.”

Whittington said he personally knows the dangers of house fires. In June of 1987, for example, two of his cousins perished in a house fire in Salisbury.

“My aunt was sleeping in the living room with one of my cousins when a fire broke out,” he explained. “When she woke up, because of the heat and the smoke, she couldn’t get to my other cousin.”

Whittington said the tragic incident is a reason fire prevention is so important to him.

“I keep the newspaper article in my house,” he said, “and it’s a goal of mine to make sure every home has a working smoke alarm.”

Whittington noted all Worcester County fire departments, including the Ocean City Fire Department, have access to free smoke alarms for those who cannot afford them.

“Due to COVID-19 we have closed our fire stations to visitors,” he added, “however, stop by fire headquarters on 15th Street and a firefighter or our administrator will bring you one outside.”

Whittington said a working smoke detector, an escape plan and a meeting spot can mean the difference between life and death.

“It increases your chances of survival greatly,” he said.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

Alternative Text

Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.