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This Week in Potomac 1-4-06

PREVENTING FIRE FATALITIES

There were five fire fatalities in Montgomery County in 2005, all of whom were 75 or older. Four of the five victims died in fires caused by improperly discarded smoking material, according to Pete Piringer, a spokesman for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue.

Temperatures in the past week were higher than the norm for this time of year, but safety precautions remain crucial in winter months.

“Winter typically is the busiest time of year for us,” Piringer said.

County residents over the age of 65 are typically at the greatest risk of dying in a fire. Reasons include the fact that they may be less able to take quick action necessary in a fire emergency, and they may live alone without somebody to help during an accident.

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue recommends the following safety tips for older Americans:

* Kitchen Fires — Most kitchen fires occur because food is left unattended on the stove or in the oven. If you must leave the kitchen while cooking, take a spoon or potholder with you to remind you to return to the kitchen. Never cook with loose, dangling sleeves that can ignite easily. If a fire breaks out in a pan, put a lid on the pan. Never throw water on a grease fire.

* Smoking — Don’t leave smoking materials unattended. Use “safety ashtrays” with wide lips. Empty all ashtrays into the toilet or a metal container before going to bed. Never smoke in bed. Don’t smoke when drowsy.

* It is important to have a working smoke alarm on each level of a home, have an escape plan, and call the fire department from a safe area, preferably a neighbor’s house.

While there were no major fires in Potomac in the week following Christmas, Piringer mentioned that several fires in Montgomery County were caused by people improperly disposing of fireplace ashes.

LUSE PERFORMS AT STRATHMORE

Andrew Luse, a Walt Whitman High School graduate, will perform at Strathmore during the month of January as part of Strathmore’s Artist in Residence program. His public performances on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 18 and 25 will take place in the intimate 100-seat Music Room in the Mansion at Strathmore at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10, and can be purchased by visiting www.strathmore.org or calling 301-581-5100. His concerts on Jan. 4 and 25 will feature works by Chopin, Mozart, Brahms, Beethoven and Gershwin. His concert on the Jan. 18 celebrates Mozart’s 250th birthday.

C&O CANAL TOWPATH STILL CLOSED ALONG WIDEWATER

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park has extended the temporary closure of the towpath in the Widewater section of the canal, between mile 13 and 13.6, because unseasonal weather conditions have prevented placement of the final towpath surface. “We were hoping to finish this up by the end of the calendar year,” said Dan Cody, a civil engineer with the Park Service.

A detour is provided around this construction area via Berma Road. Visitors are advised to follow posted detour signs. The detour will be in effect until further notice. “It’s all weather-dependent at this point,” Cody said.

SKATE AT YOUR OWN RISK ON C&O CANAL

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park reminds visitors that ice skating in the park is at your own risk. Caution should be used whenever ice skating. Before going on the ice, ensure that the frozen water is at least four inches thick. For safety, always ice skate with at least one adult, and never go ice skating alone.

CANAL PHOTOS BENEFIT CANAL BOAT FUND

A new exhibit of color photos of the C&O Canal, particularly scenes from the Great Falls area, is now on display in the Historic Tavern at the Great Falls visitor center of C&O Canal National Historical Park. Photographer/author Dorothy Camagna will donate all proceeds from photos ordered to the Canal Boat fund. The Friends of Historic Great Falls Tavern have raised more than $425,000 to date in their effort to replace the 30-year-old Canal Clipper replica boat that will no longer float. It is estimated that it will take an additional $75,000 to build a double-decked replica packet boat. Until three years ago, the canal boat carried more than 18,000 passengers each year through the original lift lock in front of the tavern. See www.BuildACanalBoat.com.