Pay attention while keeping warm

Published 11:09 am Tuesday, January 25, 2011

When I am driving in the county or spending time at home in Alabaster, my ears are usually filled with the chatter of my handheld police scanner.

Even when I am not at work, I enjoy knowing what’s going on everywhere in Shelby County, listening to local HAM radio operators and hearing the communications between first responders and their dispatchers.

Because I have had my scanner for several years, it has become easy for me to determine how serious a police or fire call is almost immediately after they alert the agency.

Many calls involve relatively minor health-related issues or police officers responding to faulty burglary alarms.

But the emergency call on Jan. 12 was different. When I heard the Helena and Pelham fire departments dispatched to a burning home on Appleford Road in Helena, I knew it was a big deal.

When I arrived on the scene, three fire engines were surrounding what was left of the enormous two-story house while the firefighters were putting out a few remnant flames in the home’s attic.

I was relieved when I heard nobody was hurt in the fire, but my heart was filled with sorrow for those who lived there. The fire, which was ruled accidental, started on the first floor of the residence and quickly spread to the second floor and the attic.

In a few short hours, that family lost their home and nearly everything in it.

With winter in full swing, many of us are using space heaters, heated blankets and other cold-weather devices to stay warm. These items are great when the temperatures outside are low, but we need to treat them with the attention they deserve.

It doesn’t take much to start a house fire, and a blaze can grow out of control very quickly. Think twice before you leave hot embers in the fireplace all night or keep your space heater running while you sleep.

It’s not fun listening to radio traffic detailing someone’s home or business burning to the ground.

I would rather hear about police disarming faulty burglary alarms.

Neal Wagner is the City Editor of the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 17 or by e-mail at