In the United States, fire departments respond to over 1,000,000 fires each and every year. Civilian fire deaths average about 3500 per year. According to the National Fire Protection Association, about 75% of those deaths are due to house fires. Fires also cause billions of dollars in property damage each year.
House Fire Prevention
Not all house fires are preventable. But there are ways to help minimize the chances of having a fire in your home. Being prepared can also help minimize the chance of injury or death. In addition, you can help minimize the damage caused by fire.
Fire Safety in The Kitchen
Kitchen fires are the number 1 cause of home fires. Most kitchen fires are caused by unattended cooking. By practicing good fire safety in the kitchen you will greatly decrease your chances of having a house fire.
Grease fires are common on both the stovetop and the oven. If grease or oil becomes overheated it can ignite on its own or by splattering on to a heat source. When cooking on a stove, be sure to have a metal lid large enough to cover your pot or pan. If your pan catches fire, simply placing the lid on your pan can smother the fire. Be sure to have a Class K Fire Extinguisher in your kitchen. Do not attempt to put out a grease fire with water.
Keep all flammable items away from heat sources. Food packaging, loose clothing,
Be sure to store combustible materials safely. Never store gasoline inside your home. You can store it in your garage, but make sure it is in an approved container. Fumes from gasoline are combustible and can explode from a spark or match. Be sure other materials such as paint and thinners are stored in undamaged sealed containers.
Electrical Fire Prevention
Bad wires cause fires. Extension cords are a common source of electrical fires. Be sure to inspect your extension cords for damage. Never overload a circuit, outlet, or extension cord. If an extension cord feels hot to the touch it is either overloaded or damaged. Christmas lights should be inspected, they are easily damaged. When connecting them together it’s important to know how many amps each set draws to prevent overloading. Animals chewing wires can be a problem both inside and outside your home. Indoor space heaters can easily overload your circuits or extension cords. Making sure any electrical devices or wiring are in good working order and not damaged is an important part of effective electrical fire prevention.
Both natural gas and propane have an odor to let you know when there is a leak. Most people describe the smell as similar to rotten eggs. Natural gas and propane are combustible. If you suspect a leak, avoid anything that may cause a spark. Open a window but do not turn on a fan. If the smell is strong, evacuate the house and call 911. Most homes have a shut-off valve outside.
Other Household Fire Safety
Dryer vents need to be cleaned. A clogged dryer vent can cause a fire. If the vent is inside a wall it can cause the fire to spread before it is detected.
Keep all exits clear. Having a clear way to exit the home is important for good household fire safety.
Lightning causes many fires. While you can’t prevent lightning strikes, having a lightning rod can minimize damage by providing a low resistance path for the enormous energy of a lightning strike.
Fire Safety Plan
Having a fire safety plan can help in an emergency situation. Make sure everyone in the home knows how to use the fire extinguishers and their locations. It’s also important to know all possible exits for each room. Escape ladders may be necessary for second-story windows.
Types of Fires
Class A Fire
Basic combustable materials such as paper, wood and cloth. This would also include brush fires and trash fires.
Class B Fire
Gasoline, oil and grease. It’s important to know that this does not include cooking oil and grease.
Class C Fire
Live electrical fires. If possible, turn off the power before putting out the fire.
Class D Fire
Metals – usually high alkali metals such as magnesium, aluminum or sodium. Class D fires are very rare but are difficult to put out.
Class K Fire
Kitchen fires. This includes cooking oils, grease, gasses and electrical elements.
Home Fire Extinguishers
Fire prevention is important. However, if a fire does occur, having the right fire extinguisher is essential. There are several classes of fire extinguishers.
Class (A) Fire Extinguisher
Pressurized water – Used for basic paper, wood and cloth fires.
Class (B, C) Fire Extinguisher
Carbon Dioxide, Sodium Bicarbonate or Halon – Works by removing oxygen to suffocate the fire. These extinguishers are heavy and do not cool the burning material. However, the cleanup is much easier.
Class (A,B,C) Fire Extinguisher
Multipurpose Dry Chemical or Halon- This is the most common type of fire extinguisher. They are lightweight and easy to use.
Class (D) Fire Extinguisher
Dry Chemical – Used for metal fires.
Class (K) Fire Extinguisher
Wet Chemical – Creates a foam which suffocates the fire, cools the burning elements and prevents grease and oil from reigniting.
You should have at least 1 Class (A, B, C) fire extinguisher on each floor. In addition, there should be a Class (K) or (BC) extinguisher in the kitchen area. How many extinguishers depends on the size of the home. Place fire extinguishers in easily accessible areas.