LAWRENCEVILLE - Four Gwinnett County families learned fire safety lessons the hard way over the past several days.
From Saturday night to Monday morning, four blazes displaced 10 people and injured three.
"The lesson to remember is fire safety is important, not just during the winter months," said Gwinnett Fire Department spokesman Lt. Thomas Rutledge.
Lesson No. 1:
Have smoke detectors
A Dacula couple was lucky to wake up early Monday, when the garage apartment they shared caught fire, Rutledge said.
The fire broke out about 5:46 a.m., and officials aren't sure if it began in the garage or the apartment above it.
Sue Davis, who lives in the main house at 377 Church St., said her son tried to put out the fire and received minor burns on his arm. But both the man and his wife were able to escape, alert the Davises and call 911.
"It's scary, and I'm just so proud that they didn't get hurt," Davis said. "We lost a lot of stuff, but everybody's safe, thank God, and that's all I care about."
Davis said the living situation was temporary, and the family did not think about installing smoke detectors.
Rutledge said people's sense of smell does not work while they are asleep, so detectors are essential in preventing injury when fires break out overnight.
Ammunition, propane tanks and paint cans stored in the garage exploded while the fire was burning, so firefighters had to approach the fire in a defensive mode.
The garage was destroyed, and Davis said the siding on one end of her house melted.
Lesson No. 2:
Don't use flammable liquids in the fireplace
On Sunday night, a flash fire sent a couple to the hospital, Rutledge said.
A man and his wife were injured when the pair tried to start a fire in the fireplace using gasoline, he said.
The fire had been extinguished by the time firefighters arrived at the Kingsport Drive address in Lawrenceville just after 9 p.m.
Rutledge said both victims were conscious and alert, but they were transported to Grady Hospital in Atlanta, which has a burn unit.
With high winds and cold temperatures, many people will begin using fireplaces, iron stoves and other alternative heating sources this winter. But Rutledge pointed out a cardinal rule of starting fires is to stay away from flammable liquids such as gasoline and kerosene.
"This is exactly what can happen as a result of that," he said.
The house sustained minor damage to the living room, he added.
Lesson No. 3:
Have a fire escape plan
Seven occupants of a Lilburn neighborhood did everything right when a blaze broke out at the detached garage Saturday night.
When firefighters arrived at about 10:21 p.m., all seven adults had evacuated, including two in wheelchairs, Rutledge said.
Battling the blaze was difficult because an electricity line to the house fell down because of the fire, hampering the efforts of firefighters to get to a positive water supply, Rutledge said.
"They evacuated the house and called the fire department," Rutledge said. "Have an escape plan; know who is going to help the youngest and who is going to help the oldest and the disabled."
There was no damage to the West Johns Road house, but the family was displaced because electricity was cut off. Jackson EMC was contacted, Rutledge said.
The Red Cross is assisting the Lilburn and Dacula residents.
Lesson No. 4: Don't leave burning leaves unattended
A Lawrenceville man is fortunate to have woken up in time to discover his home on Red Oaks Lane was on fire.
Rutledge said firefighters arrived about 4:48 p.m. Monday to find the first level of the home in flames. Firefighters believe leaves the man was burning near the home did not completely stop burning, and flames may have traveled to the deck.
"The gentleman heard the smoke alarm and came downstairs and saw the deck on fire," he said. "He tried to put it out with a garden hose but was unsuccessful."
The man was not injured but was displaced from the home. Rutledge said the man will not be needing American Red Cross assistance because he had somewhere to stay.