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Posted on: February 2, 2017

MAMMOTH LAKES FIRE DEPARTMENT IDENTIFY POTENTIAL SAFETY ISSUES

With the record monthly snow accumulation, and with Mammoth Lake’s two statistically largest months yet to come, the Town of Mammoth Lakes and Mammoth Lakes Fire Department would like to remind residents of several life safety issues.  These include the accumulation of large amounts of snow/ice sitting on roofs, the blockage of vents for heating and hot water appliances, and the maintenance needed to safely use propane. Additionally, we request that residents keep addresses visible and hydrants available for use.

With the large accumulations of snow, our roofs are already supporting a tremendous load.  Some signs of excess snow weight on the roof include exterior/interior doors that do not open or close easily, cracks or bulging that occur in sheetrock walling, and bowing in timber members of ceilings/walls.  Existing structures should be able to structurally withstand our anticipated snow loads, but it is recommended that roofs have some snow removed from them to prevent excessive snow accumulation.  

As the temperatures rise roofs will shed snow and ice, especially metal roofs, and any cornices that have developed will begin to fall.  In addition, as the snow on the roof begins to melt, icicles and ice dams will form and can pose a significant hazard.  Be extra careful where you walk and where children play, especially at all exits and entries.  Safely removing the snow off of roofs is also issue and if you do not feel that you can accomplish the task, it is highly recommended that a licensed contractor be sought to perform the work.

At the same time, vents for any fuel powered heating appliances can be blocked or damaged by the deep snow or as snow sheds from the roof.  Home owners, landlords, and tenants need to make sure that vents for these appliances are cleared of snow and inspected so that a buildup of carbon monoxide inside does not occur.  Since carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, and mixes well with air, blocked vents allow accumulations of the deadly gas to build up inside structures if not properly vented.  It is highly recommended that carbon monoxide detectors be installed inside structures in order to alert occupants to the build-up of carbon monoxide gas.   

Fire Code requires that all bedrooms have two means of exiting.  Traditionally, this is accomplished by way of a bedroom access door and window.  During the winter, first floor windows tend to become covered by snow and require attention.  Resist the urge to cover up lower level bedroom windows with plywood and keep these exits open by keeping them accessible.  If you own a complex or live in a rental or commercial unit, the owner is responsible to keep these exits open.  The windows do not have to be cleared to ground level, but need to provide a route for exiting should the bedroom door not be available.  If you have concerns with the snow accumulations in front of ground floor windows, bring this issue to the attention of your landlord, manager, or owner.  The Fire Department will also be looking for infractions of this code.

For those homeowners that use propane, several responsibilities come with its use.  The top of the tank needs to be routinely dug out to allow for quick access to the shutoff valve and to allow for regulator venting.  In addition, make sure that unprotected sections of all exterior gas pipes are cleared of snow and ice and not subject to shedding snow and ice from your roof.  Downward snow pressure from snow settlement and falling snow and ice from roofs has caused many pipe sections to crack resulting in leaks.  Unfortunately, if the leak occurs under the snow, the snow traps the gas and it may be some time before the leak is detected.  In the meantime, the gas will seek openings in the foundation or structure of a building and can create an explosion potential should the unburned gas come into contact with a source of ignition.  The propane regulations that were implemented in the early 1990’s have cut down on the number of building explosions and with adequate routine maintenance, we should be able to limit the number of future exposures.  

Lastly, make sure that your address is clearly visible from the street.  In times of emergencies, precious time is lost trying to find the proper structure when no address can be located.  In addition, there are fire hydrants located throughout town that are used by the fire department in the event of a fire.  The Fire Department is requesting interested individuals to routinely shovel out the hydrant nearest to their home.  If maintained frequently, the amount of work is minimal and may even be shared by several neighbors.  If interested in participating, please contact Jody Holl at 934-2300 for information about the program and the location of the nearest hydrant if it is not readily apparent.

Thank you for helping us keep you safe!  If you did not place new batteries in your smoke detectors when we switched to daylight savings time, now is the time to do it.  If you would like any additional information on these topics or anything else pertaining to the Fire Department, please feel free to contact the Fire Station at any time at (760) 934-2300 or the Town of Mammoth Lakes at (760) 965-3630.

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Location: 437 Old Mammoth Rd, Suite R, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546   •   Mailing Address: PO Box 1609, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546   •   Phone: 760-965-3600   •   Fax: 760-934-7493