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Clyde Beal: Sound advice from an area firefighter

May. 19, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

In Daniel Burdette's 44 years, he has seen firsthand the results of accidents big and small. Some were just unpleasant embarrassing situations like overflowing water from a toilet. Others have resulted in catastrophic destruction and loss of life.

Because of his past military experience, ongoing training as a volunteer firefighter, and current EMS job qualifications, some would consider Burdette to be knowledgeable in areas of home and auto safety. Burdette says he is nothing more than someone who loves what he does. He enjoys talking to others about home safety and helping people in times of emergencies.

After graduating from Huntington High School in 1986, Burdette soon left home for military service with the United States Navy. After completing boot camp in San Diego, Calif., he was sent to Treasure Island Navy training center located in San Francisco Bay where he attended hull-maintenance training. This particular type of training combines several career skills that included welding, sheet metal fabrication, pipe fitting, maintenance of firefighting equipment, and damage control at sea as needed.

In March 1987, Burdette was assigned to the USS Iowa, a naval battleship with 16 inch guns capable of firing a 2,700 pound shell for more than 20 miles. It's important to mention the magnitude of power these guns possessed. One can only imagine the destructive capabilities of these weapons should an accidental explosion occur, which is exactly what happened on April 19, 1989.

"There were over 40 people killed on the ship that day," said Burdette. "Many were friends I had worked alongside of. It was an explosion that literally caused the ship to shake and shutter. It was something no one should have to endure."

Burdette had little else to say about the accident. He mentioned the annual memorial held in Norfolk, Va., each April to honor those killed that day. He has attended previous meetings, but last month he paid a visit to the grave of Boatswain Mate 2nd class Michael Williams, who lost his life the day of the explosion. He is buried in South Shore, Ky. Burdette still corresponds with many who served alongside him on the USS Iowa.

After his discharge from the Navy, Burdette became involved with the occupation of saving lives. As a paramedic who drives an emergency rescue vehicle and one who also spends several hours a week as a volunteer fireman, he has had ample opportunity to become involved with the process of fighting fires and saving lives.

"I guess it's job satisfaction," said Burdette. "It's that extreme high feeling that comes with something as simple as talking to a group of high school kids about the benefits of using seat belts, or saving a life using CPR at a crash scene."

Burdette has seen firsthand the results of kitchen fires that occurred on unattended stove tops. He's seen burnt up heating elements that caused unattended crock pots to shatter. He talked about the importance of keeping furnace filters changed periodically. He also placed a lot of emphasis on the dangers of lint build up in clothes dryers.

"Most people don't realize that lint accumulation in your clothes dryer is very combustible," said Burdette. "Each time you use your clothes dryer, it's a good idea to clean the lint filter. Homeowners who have any doubt about home safety with regards to gas water heaters, flammable storage, operation of smoke alarms, overloaded electrical wall sockets, or just anything that concerns safety, should know that most fire departments will gladly come and inspect your home for free."

According to Burdette, while some homes are obviously safer than others, home fires are preventable. He mentioned that items like crock pots, toasters, portable space heaters, and other small appliances should be kept far away from combustible material. He mentioned the importance of changing batteries in smoke and burglar alarms on an annual basis.

Some fire departments may even provide smoke alarms for those who cannot afford them. Check with your local fire department to be sure.

Child safety is another area that's addressed by your local fire department. Tours that not only let the kids go through a real fire truck, but are also intended to teach home safety can often be arraigned by a simple phone call to your area fire department.

Another area that Burdette feels should be mentioned is the improper use of jumper cables when attempting to start a disabled vehicle. He stressed reading the owner's manual on the proper connection of battery jumper cables before you begin. Improperly connected car batteries can explode causing severe acid burn.

Along with home safety comes those "shade tree" mechanics who still believe it's safe to crawl under the family car to change oil while the vehicle is improperly supported. Auto stores sell floor jacks that are inexpensive and intended for such use.

Burdette says that most subjects covered within this article are common sense. Like calling your power company before you dig in your yard. Even unattended brush fires have the potential to burn an entire neighborhood when not properly handled. Always have a water supply close by when burning outside, and never burn on a windy day. If your home doesn't have a fire extinguisher that's suitable for electrical fires, grease fires and everyday combustibles, you should get one.

And finally a word about cellphones: don't text and drive for obvious reasons, and because of the potential of static electricity in cellphones -- never use your phone while filling you gas tank.

And to Mr. Daniel Burdette, thank you for your military service to our country and for sharing your knowledge about home safety.

Clyde Beal is an area freelance writer who would like to hear from families with kids on the honor roll involved with school and community projects.

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