Goodjudgment can prevent winter accidents

Published on Thu, Nov 30, 2006 by ack Kinter

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Good judgment can prevent winter accidents

By Jack Kinter

Fire chief Tom Fields got hammered with 21 calls in 24 hours.
On Sunday night, there were calls of two possible structure fires, automobile accidents, several people slipping on the ice, fire alarm and water flow activations from cold weather, chimney fires, and “a ton” of calls about downed power lines or power lines starting fires in trees.
In one incident, Fields said crews were forced to evacuate 220 children after wind blew smoke, debris and possibly fire into the air intake in one Blaine classroom.


“Each time we get a call we’re notifying the Whatcom County Department of Emergency Management Services (DEM), as well as the sheriff’s office to get a plow out there in front of us as some of the roads just aren’t open,” Fields said. “We got to the point where we were triaging the calls, not responding to everything.”
Fields said the biggest problem, however, is people not using good judgement with their vehicles, adding that one big drift left 12 to 13 cars off the road in four miles.


Fields said individuals can further prevent accidents by exercising caution when using alternate sources of heat.
“Any open flame, like a hibachi, a LP gas or kerosene heater, a barbecue, all of which we’ve seen being used, will generate carbon monoxide, which can kill you.”


Blaine police chief Mike Haslip said this week’s snowstorm has also helped turn the Highway 543 construction site into an inviting but potentially deadly playground.


The storm dumped as much as two feet of snow on Blaine earlier this week, closing local schools and causing Imco Construction to suspend work on the truck route renovation until conditions improve.
With no work going on and only a skeleton crew to shoo them off, children have invaded the place drawn by interesting but dangerous features like ponds and deep excavations, said traffic supervisor Dagmar DeVere.


“We’re not just talking about the nuisance factor. These kids don’t realize that the construction area can be deadly,” she said. “There are many places that are unstable and could collapse, and the ice on the water retention ponds isn’t safe to be on either.”
The water is collected in the ponds until it’s trucked away, and comes from a combination of surface water run-off and groundwater from an unusually high water table in the area. DeVere said she’d chased more than 12 children away from the ponds on Tuesday.


“Aside from the damage they’re doing to the site by walking around on areas that have been engineered and designed for water, not human traffic, there’s a good possibility that one of them could disappear into one of these hazards and no one would know until they turned up missing,” she said.