Fire Safety

Life has been busy, but it was interrupted last week by a rather scary experience. The house behind ours burned down. We didn’t notice it was on fire until we heard the sirens, our power went out and there were 15 foot flames coming out of their roof. Everyone made it out safely, but we were very concerned for awhile that our shed or house could catch fire too. 

After the excitement had died down we realized we needed to look carefully at our fire safety and I thought I would share some of our ideas and plans here. 

Fire extinguishers: there is now one in each part of the house including the garage and shed. Fires can start in garages with cars and junk piled around it can feed the blaze. Having an extinguisher nearby may help. They are also incredibly important in the kitchen where a lot of other house fires start. NEVER put water on a grease fire, use an extinguisher if you have time. 

Escape route: we don’t have a big house so I don’t know how detailed we need to get. If we can, we’ll leave through a door. But every window has a screen that can be easily pushed out. If your screens are screwed on, get them replaced so they fit properly and aren’t attached if possible. If they are metal consider having them replaced with the plastic screening so it can easily rip in an emergency. Second stories need escape ladders in the rooms. 

Defensible space and tidiness: Keeping the sides of houses clear of debris and junk will help prevent a fire from spreading either from your house or to it. I know it’s hard to keep houses totally clean, especially yard debris, but it can make a difference. Also keeping rooms tidy and garages clean will help slow a fire’s spread. It won’t stop it, but it can keep it from having lots of fuel. Again a tough one, but looking at how jam-packed our neighbor’s house was I’m sure they were not very good housekeepers and that didn’t help. (I’m talking piles and stacks of things, not not picking up toys).

Smoke detectors: Probably the most terrifying part in retrospect was how quickly the entire house was engulfed in flames. It took about 15 minutes. If they hadn’t had smoke detectors and had been asleep, I’m not sure they would have gotten out. Seriously. Make sure you have smoke detectors and make sure the batteries are working. Don’t combine them with carbon monoxide detectors. Smoke rises so detectors should be on ceilings or up high. Carbon monoxide is heavy and sinks. These need to be near the floor or on it. If CO is high enough to reach your smoke detector or smoke is low enough to reach your CO detector, it’s too late. 

Spark arrester: If you use your fireplace be sure there is a spark arrester on the chimney. This will prevent sparks and ash from landing on your roof and igniting a fire or blowing over to your neighbor’s house and starting one. Having the chimney regularly cleaned can also reduce the chance of fire. 

If at all possible make sure your electrical wiring is up to code (I know that’s an expensive one) and be sure you aren’t doing anything like overloading circuits or plugging things in to tons of adaptors and extension cords or power strips. The fire at the neighbor’s was an electrical fire that started behind the TV. If you have time run outside and hit the breaker, but being careful to begin with can help. 

I think this is all timely information too because we’re coming up on the holidays when people put out candles, have fires in their fire places, and will be cooking a lot more. Never leave candles unattended or cooking (for more than a moment or two). Under the right conditions fires can spread rapidly. And if a fire does start, get out and call the fire department. Your stuff is not worth risking your life or your family’s lives for. 

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