Note: This post about how to prevent a house fire is dedicated to my Uncle Dave Kilpatrick who has served as a volunteer fire fighter for over 30 years.
Last night I heard firetruck sirens roaring down my street and when I looked outside it was not just the firetruck lights igniting the sky.
An apartment building down the street from me was on fire and the blaze was swelling out of the second story window.
Not long after the entire roof of the three floor building was gone.
Today 25 families are out of a home.
Luckily no humans or animals were hurt or killed.
Here are a few photos to give an idea of the damage that could have been avoided if someone had been more careful.
Fires claim the lives of innocent people and often some simple fire prevention strategy could help prevent these tragedies from happening.
With that in mind I have created a list of what seem to me to be some of the best fire prevention strategies so you can prevent fire from creating a tragedy for you.
In the USA in 2016 there were 352,000 house fires resulting in 2,735 civilian deaths and 10,750 injuries (down from 4,035 and 18,875 in 1996).
In Canada from 2011 to 2015 the number of total fire calls reported – fire and non fire calls has decreased by 2% from 486,027 incidents reported in 2011 to 477,169 in 2015.
In the post below I share 25 tips (one for each of the families who lost their home yesterday on my street) and I hope they help decrease and extinguish the number of house fires in the future.
1. Buy Some Fire Extinguishers
Buy yourself a fire extinguisher for every level of your home.
Owning an automotive Fire Extinguisher is a good idea too.
Hopefully you never have to use it but if you have to you will be glad you do.
Learn the PASS system for putting a fire out with an extinguisher fast:
- Pull the pin.
- Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire. Hitting the tops of the flame with the extinguisher won’t be effective. You’ve got to smother the sucker at its base.
- Squeeze the trigger. In a controlled manner, squeeze the trigger to release the agent.
- Sweep from side to side. Sweep the nozzle from side to side until the fire is put out. Keep aiming at the base while you do so. Most extinguishers will give you about 10-20 seconds of discharge time.
2. A Common Cause of House Fires are Clothes Dryers
According to Weiss Insurance the #1 way to prevent fires starting is to clean the lint trap after every use.
3. Keep Flammables Away From The Stove
Pretty straight forward advice here and is important to keep in mind.
Keep hand towels, pizza boxes, and other flammable materials away from the stove and burners.
4. Don’t Leave the Stove On
It’s easy to forget the stove is on so be mindful of turning it off so an accident does not happen.
5. Install a Smoke Alarm on Every Level
In addition to installing your smoke alarms make sure to check them every month to make sure they work.
If your smoke alarms are battery powered make sure the batteries are still good.
6. Be Mindful of Where You Choose to Live
The apartment fire I witnessed last night took place in an apartment building.
25 apartments were affected even though only one person was responsible.
Choosing to live in a home over an apartment provides a safer environment since there are fewer people who can potentially cause a fire.
7. Never Overload an Outlet
Use quality surge protectors when you need multiple outlets.
Even an expensive surge protector is extremely cheap compared to replacing everything you own.
For non surge protected outlets do not have more than one high-wattage device per outlet.
8. Keep Outdoor Grills at Least 10 Ft From The House
I’ve seen grills cause damage to the sides of houses from people who didn’t keep this advice in mind.
9. Be Very Careful With Space Heaters
Space Heaters are a common cause of house fires.
Turn space heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
10. Always Blow Candles Out
Never leave a burning candle unattended.
Switch out candles for an essential oil diffuser and you can enjoy aromatherapy without the risk of a fire.
11. Keep Flammable Liquids Out of The House
Keep gasoline, paint thinners, and other flammable liquids out of the house.
12. Have Your Heating System Annually Serviced
Since a furnace is literally a contained fire it is important to ensure it is functioning safely.
An annual service of your furnace will ensure your heat-exchanger is not cracked and your furnace is working as it should.
13. Keep Cooking Oil Away From The Stove
Keeping cooking oil in a cupboard somewhere other than above the stove will cause you to use less of it (a health benefit) and will help prevent unnecessary fires as well.
Another tip to keep in mind is how sugar is very flammable and should be used with caution. Orange peels and garlic have oils in them that are extremely flammable.
Do not store flammable items or plastics in the oven drawers.
14. Prevent a House Fire by Minding Your Wiring
Frayed wiring can ignite a house fire fast.
Especially if you have pets you should be mindful of wires they might chew.
Be smart about your wires and it will help you prevent electrical fires.
15. Never Leave a Fire Unattended
If you have a wood burning fire never leave it unattended.
It only takes a single airborne ember to burn an entire building to the ground.
When you have a fire burning make sure someone responsible is always around.
16. Know How to Put Out a Grease Fire
In order to prevent a house fire you have to stop a small fire from spreading if it starts.
Grease fires can be brutal so here here are four steps to putting out a grease fire:
- Turn off source of heat (Stove burner or element).
- Do NOT pour water on a grease fire.
- Let me say that again, DO NOT pour water on it.
- Attempt to remove all oxygen from the flame. You can cover a pot with another pot or a baking pan.
17. Have Dirty Chimneys Cleaned Regularly
Have your chimney inspected annually by a certified chimney sweeper.
Have a professional clean and repair the chimney as needed, especially before the cold months when you will be using it often.
18. Be Mindful of Dried Up Christmas Trees
Check out this video from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission showed how quickly a dry real Christmas tree went up in flames compared to a watered one.
Personally I use an artificial Christmas tree and recommend them as they work great year after year without the risk of going up in flames.
19. Plug Kitchen Appliances Directly Into Outlets
Never use an extension cord as it can overheat and cause a fire.
In my house we keep the toaster in a cupboard.
The reduced toaster use means a reduced risk of a toaster started fire plus has the health benefit of helping us keep our carbohydrate intake down.
20. Get a Carbon Monoxide Detector
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that is the product of most any incomplete combustion process.
Human hemoglobin has a much greater affinity for CO than it does for oxygen, so suffocation in the presence of significant CO concentrations is actually quick and painless.
Most modern detectors are sensitive to both smoke and CO and are very reasonably priced.
21. Don’t Smoke
Everyone knows smoking kills and according to the National Fire Protection Association, smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths in America.
Most smoking-related fires start inside the home, often originating from upholstered furniture, bedding or mattresses.
22. Check Stove Hoods and Vents
If your stove hood vents externally, make sure insects or birds do not build nests or otherwise impede air flow through it.
23. Be Smart With Radiators
Never set clothes or shoes on a radiator or space heater to dry.
24. Keep Kids in Mind
Keep matches, lighters and candles out of reach from young children.
Air fresheners often have alcohol in them so keep them out of reach and away from candles.
Teach your kids about fire safety and ensure they know multiple ways to escape from the house if a fire occurs.
This includes teaching how to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothes should catch on fire.
Teaching your kids about fire and fire safety could save their lives.
25. When in Doubt Get Out
If a small fire starts and you have no fire extinguisher or way of putting out the fire fast get out of the house right away and call 9-1-1.
If you can’t prevent a house fire from happening the best thing to do is get away from it.
When in doubt get out of your house.
You are far less likely to die outside your house so get outside and don’t go back in.
Better safe than sorry. Better to lose your house than lose your life.
Follow the precautions in this post above and you’ll likely never lose either.
“Hope for the best, prepare for the worst”
Invest in home escape ladders if you have a multi-floor home. Look for ladders with “standoffs.” These are small protrusions that hold the ladder rungs away from the house and provide space for the foot to move down without slipping.
A fireproof safe is a good idea for storing irreplaceable family air looms, documents and valuables, just in case.
Leave a comment below and let me know what you do to prevent a house fire from happening to you.