public safety

Mt. Lebanon firefighters have responded to several structure fires recently that may have been started by pets knocking over unattended candles. In fewer than 30 seconds, a small flame can turn into a major blaze. Don’t leave burning candles unattended.

ENOUGH WITH THE CANDLES This spring, a major fire in the Sunset Hills areas completely gutted the second floor of a duplex, severely burned the occupant and killed several pet cats. Firefighters believe the fire started when one of the cats knocked over a burning candle. This is the community’s third recent large fire that started after a pet knocked over a candle. Please think before burning candles—or invest in other non-flaming methods of freshening up a room. Candles are pretty, but if you light them, please monitor them.

The Sunset Hills fire also drove home two more fire safety issues we should all keep in mind. The first was the importance of smoke alarms. Fire Chief Nick Sohyda believes there was no smoke alarm—or the existing alarm was not working—when the fire started. A smoke alarm is your best method of discovering a fire quickly. Change the batteries twice a year (an easy way to remember is to do it when you reset clocks for daylight savings time) and replace the entire unit after about 10 years (write the day you purchased it on the back of the unit).

The second is to know when to evacuate. Upon arriving at the fire, firefighters found a spent fire extinguisher, but Sohyda thinks the fire may have already spread too much by the time the extinguisher was used. Any fire larger than a trash can is too big for a fire extinguisher—get out of the house and call 911. In less than 30 seconds, a small flame can turn into a major blaze, which can get into walls and the substructure of the building. Call the experts.


SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES Most people love the smell of a wood fire—unless the smoke is blowing directly into their bedroom window. Mt. Lebanon allows the use of chimineas, portable outdoor fireplaces and portable outdoor fire pits, but with conditions. And even if you are following the rules, your cozy fire could be a smoky annoyance to your neighbors, especially if they suffer from asthma or other respiratory conditions. So here are a few tips:

• Always use the device in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Don’t overload the device with fuel.
• Don’t burn rubbish or yard waste.
• Don’t burn wet or damp wood—it tends to create more smoke.
• Try to position the device in a way that the smoke will blow away from the houses closest to yours.
• Don’t burn a fire on extremely humid days as the smoke tends to stay low. Avoid very windy days also.
• Always keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose close at hand. To review the guidelines for all outdoor fires, check

GOING THE EXTRA MILE Going the extra mile They stand out in the rain, the snow and the heat to make sure our children get to and from school safely. They dodge traffic and hope that drivers will stop when they step off the curb. “It is a thankless job,” says Mt. Lebanon Police Chief Coleman McDonough of a crossing guard’s duties.

This spring, the Mt. Lebanon School District recognized the efforts of all Mt. Lebanon’s school crossing guards with its Extra Mile Award. The award cited the hours the guards devote and how they become beloved and trusted friends to Mt. Lebanon’s children by providing treats at Halloween, offering kind words when someone’s running late  and reprimanding drivers who don’t obey their outstretched STOP signs.

“We are pleased and grateful to receive this recognition,” McDonough says.

School Guard Supervisor Beth Jaussi adds, “I personally want to thank the school board for recognizing these 54 outstanding men and women who put their lives on the line everyday they put their feet onto the roadways. Every one of the guards will tell you that this is ‘my post and these are my kids.’ They spread out their arms—which in my vision looks like 8-foot wings—to guide their kids across the roadways and when that vehicle won’t stop or a child acts up, those wings wrap around or push those kids to safety.”