Very recently local firefighters responded to a dwelling fire during which a lot of damages occurred.

One of the problems the firefighters encountered was a lot of clutter in the dwelling, making it difficult to fight the fire.

We know about how unsightly the outside of a property can be if not maintained. Clutter inside a dwelling not only is sloppy but it can be a deadly hazard, especially during an emergency such as a fire.

This is certainly true if a fire occurs at night and firefighters must enter the dark premises to either fight the blaze or attempt a rescue. Clutter can not only put the lives of the rescue personnel in jeopardy but also the lives of the occupants in the building.

It doesn't have to be major clutter that creates problems.

Merely have items such as wash baskets with clothing or newly delivered packages laying in a hallway can be dangerous during a fire or even an ambulance call.

Imagine firefighters rushing down a hallway in the dark with hoses and other equipment, only to stumble over items laying in the path.

Stairs are another impediment for firefighters when they are also used as storage areas. Just a simple thing as small packages laying on steps can cause rescue workers to fall when responding to a situation.

Obviously most people don't think about such situations. We all hope we never have to call a fire department or ambulance to our residence.

But think about it.

The rescue personnel, when they do respond, are in a strange environment. They don't know what to expect.

They're usually facing a serious situation such as thick smoke, heavy flames, or victims - possibly even pets - which can't be located.

Nobody is saying you have to be a "neatie Petey." All we're stating is to be aware of obstacles you could have in the way of emergency responders should they have to enter your residence.

Clear paths not only help to assure their safety, but it make fighting the fire a more efficient task. Being able to get to the flames means they can be extinguished faster and there is less chance they will spread.

Such paths also means they would reach trapped family members faster, too. This could mean the difference between life and death.

Be aware of what's in your house. Try to keep clutter to a minimum. But especially keep hallways and stairs clean of all objects that could trip-up a firefighter or ambulance attendant.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com