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PLATTSMOUTH – Large wildfires in California and other parts of the American West have highlighted the importance of fire prevention and safety for Cass County residents.

Plattsmouth Volunteer Fire Department member Bob Heckman would like to increase awareness of those topics in local communities.

Heckman has spent his career working to educate the public about fire-related issues. These include prevention tips for both homes and businesses, safety guidelines to follow if fires emerge and warning signs about fire possibilities in the area.

Heckman has distributed numerous pamphlets in Plattsmouth this week with information about wildland fires in the United States. The free brochures are available at several downtown businesses including The Journal, Herban Coffee Lab and Farmers Insurance-James Fabian Agency.

The pamphlets provide information about the positive and destructive elements of wildland fires. Many plant species depend on fire to provide necessary heat for their seeds to begin to grow. Fire also helps break down organic matter into soil nutrients.

Catastrophic fires can cause large amounts of damage to humans and their property. While low-intensity fires can provide benefits for wildlife, high-intensity blazes can incinerate habitat for plants and animals. They can also create unhealthy smoke for people to breathe.

The topic has jumped into national headlines due to 20 active fires in California. A fire northwest of Sacramento has become the largest blaze in the modern history of the state. The Mendocino Complex fire has burned more than 290,000 acres of land and has either damaged or destroyed nearly 150 structures.

The Carr Fire near Redding, Calif., has been even more destructive for area residents. It has burned 167,000 acres and damaged or destroyed more than 1,000 homes.

Heckman said he had several fire prevention tips for Cass County citizens for August. His first piece of advice involved smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. He said the devices were the first line of defense in emergency situations.

“Smoke detectors save lives,” Heckman said. “If yours goes off and you do not know why call 911 without hesitation. Follow the same rules for carbon monoxide detectors. Get out and stay out until the fire department says it’s okay.”

Heckman said it is also critical for residents to conduct regular maintenance of household items such as furnaces and chimneys. He said that could help address any issues before they become full-scale problems in the future.

“With fall right around the corner now is the time to have your furnace checked, or if you burn wood, have your chimney cleaned,” Heckman said. “As always, follow the manufacturer’s recommendation on maintenance.”

Heckman said it was also important to keep a close eye on electrical matters inside structures. Electrical appliances, wires or panels that display worrisome signs should be examined by professionals to guarantee their safety.

“If you have electrical issues in your home or business please take care of them,” Heckman said. “Problems like that do not just go away. They only make matters worse for everyone involved.”

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