News Releases


Title: Keep cooking safety in mind this Thanksgiving
Contact: Jennifer Bowen
(334) 269-3550
11/21/2017

While planning your Thanksgiving menu with staples like turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, Alabama Department of Insurance State Fire Marshal Scott Pilgreen says it’s important to keep cooking safety in mind. 

 

Thanksgiving is the peak day of the year for home cooking fires, followed by the night before Thanksgiving, according to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). In 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available, fire departments across the country responded to an estimated 1,760 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving, the USFA reports.

 

Here are some tips for safe cooking.

 

Kitchen safety

 

Before cooking, test your smoke alarm by pressing the “test” button located on the device.

 

Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. Turn off the stove if you have to leave the room, even if it’s for a short period of time.

 

Keep kids at least three feet away from hot stoves and ovens.

 

Turn pot handles inward or toward the back of the stove so they can’t be accidentally bumped, leading to a spill.

 

Keep a lid nearby to smother small grease fires. Slide the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.

 

Keep flammable items like oven mitts, plastic or wooden utensils and food wrappers away from stoves.

 

Check all ovens, stove eyes and fryers to ensure they’re turned off once you’re done cooking.

 

Turkey fryer safety

 

Make sure the turkey fryer is on a level surface, where it’s less likely to tip over, and don’t try to move it once it’s in use.

 

Fully thaw and dry a turkey before attempting to fry it. Even the smallest amount of ice on a turkey can cause the oil to boil over.

 

Frying should always be done outside, away from buildings and trees. But do not try to fry a turkey in the rain.

 

Children should never be near a turkey fryer.

 

Never overfill the pot with cooking oil. Too much cooking oil can lead to a spill over, igniting a fire. Keep cooking temperatures at 350 degrees or below.

 

Turn off the flame before lowering the turkey into the oil. After turning off the flame, the turkey should be lowered slowly into the oil.

 

Keep an extinguisher approved for grease fires nearby when frying.

 

After frying, let the oil cool completely.

 

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.


Title: When you fall back, don't forget to change the batteries in your smoke alarms
Contact: Jennifer Bowen
(334) 269-3550
11/01/2017
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As millions prepare to fall back an hour, Department of Insurance State Fire Marshal Scott Pilgreen encourages Alabamians to change the batteries in their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors while changing their clocks.

 

“It only takes five minutes to potentially save a life,” Pilgreen said. “Working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are critical to keeping Alabamians safe.”

 

Smoke alarm safety

 

Smoke alarms give early warning of a fire, allowing those inside the residence a chance to escape quickly.

 

Alarms should be placed on each level of a home, and inside every bedroom, located on a ceiling or high on a wall. Smoke in one area of the home may not reach another part of the home, which is why having multiple alarms is important. 

 

If possible, get interconnected smoke alarms. That way, if one sounds, all alarms sound. Strobe light alarms are available for those with hearing impairment. In addition to changing the batteries when the time changes, test smoke alarms once a month by pressing the “test” button on the device.

 

Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years or sooner if the device doesn’t respond properly during monthly testing. The alarm’s manufacturing date is usually found on the back or side of the unit. If you’re not sure how old a smoke alarm is, replace it.

 

Carbon monoxide safety

 

Known as an invisible killer, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can be fatal. It is a byproduct of burning fuel from cars, stoves, engines, generators and grills but becomes deadly when it builds up indoors with no place to go. 

 

More than 400 Americans die each year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning and more than 4,000 are hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, vomiting, confusion and chest pain. Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed on each level of the home, in all the major living quarters and outside sleeping areas.

 

Like smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors should be tested monthly and replaced if they don’t respond properly. The life expectancy of models varies by brand, so check the instructions on your unit to determine when it’s time to replace it.

 

If a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector sounds, leave the residence quickly and call 911 or your local fire department.



Title: State Fire Marshal encourages fire safety this Halloween
Contact: Jennifer Bowen
(334) 269-3550
10/27/2017
State Fire Marshal Scott Pilgreen encourages all of Alabama’s ghosts and goblins to keep safety in mind when trick-or-treating this Halloween. 
 
“The only frightening part of Halloween should be the scary costumes,” Pilgreen said.  “A little bit of planning ahead of time can ensure a safer, happier Halloween for everyone.”  
 
Here are a few tips.  
 
Costumes should be tailored appropriately, so children don’t trip. Avoid long, flowing material, which can be a fire hazard if it comes in contact with a flame. When shopping for costumes, look for labels that say it is flame resistant. Ensure that eye holes on masks are large enough for kids to see well.
 
Flashlights are the perfect Halloween accessory. They not only help light the steps of trick-or-treaters but also make them visible to others. 
 
Light jack-o-lanterns with battery-powered candles or glow sticks to avoid the risk of fire. If using a real flame, place the pumpkin away from doorsteps and walkways to prevent kids in costumes from accidentally brushing up against a flame. 
 
Fall decorations like corn stalks and hay bales are flammable and should be kept away from heat sources that could ignite them. 
 
Don’t clutter your front porch or doorstep with decorations. Exits to a home should be clear to serve as an escape route if needed. 
 
Make sure kids know how to stop, drop and roll in case of an emergency. 
 
Have a safe and happy Halloween.

Title: Former volunteer firefighter sentenced in arson case
Contact: Jennifer Bowen
(334) 269-3550
10/11/2017
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Chad M. Ellis, 30, has been sentenced after pleading guilty to setting three fires in Elmore County, the Alabama Department of Insurance State Fire Marshal’s Office announces.

Ellis, the former assistant chief of the Deatsville Volunteer Fire Department, was sentenced to probation in Elmore County Court Wednesday and ordered to pay $86,000 in restitution.

Ellis pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree arson in connection with two vacant house fires in the Deatsville area and one count of setting a woodland fire.

As part of his plea agreement, he will have no affiliation with any fire department for life and will undergo mandatory counseling.

The State Fire Marshal’s would like to thank the Elmore County District Attorney’s Office for their assistance.



Title: Jefferson County woman convicted in insurance fraud case
Contact: Jennifer Bowen
(334) 369-3550
10/06/2017

Cassandra G. Smith of Jefferson County, Alabama, has been convicted of first and second degree insurance fraud, the Alabama Department of Insurance announces.

The indictment charged that Smith, a licensed insurance producer doing business as GSI Grant Smith Insurance, LLC, received an initial down payment towards the victims’ annual homeowner’s insurance premium, but the policies were later canceled for non-payment of premium after Smith kept the balance of the money paid to her. Smith allegedly advised the victims their policies were active and coverage was in place despite the policies having been cancelled.

A jury rendered the unanimous verdicts Wednesday in Jefferson County Circuit Court. First-degree insurance fraud is a Class B felony and a conviction can carry a sentence of two to 20 years. Second-degree insurance fraud is a Class C felony and can carry a sentence of one to 10 years.

Sentencing is set for Nov. 30.