House Fire Safety
Although fire is an unlikely occurrence, many people die every year in fires in homes where this was the furthest thing from their minds. The larger or more complex a home is, the greater the life safety risk during a fire. We know for a fact that a fire started by a match, igniting newspaper on a couch, can "flashover" in only four minutes. This is when every combustible item in the room bursts into flame, leaving no chance of survivability for nearby victims. Even a firefighter wearing full gear and and air mask can only survive for a few seconds in these conditions.
Fires and smoke shown in movies and on TV is meant to be entertaining, not realistic. In real fires you usually can see nothing. During a fire, the proliferation of synthetic materials in our homes today can generate dense quantities of black smoke and toxic gases that disrupt judgment and cause collapse. Be sure your family members understand that if there is a fire in your home they must immediately get out and stay out. This is especially important to communicate to children, who often react to frightening situations by running to their favorite hiding places.
- Install and maintain smoke alarms (see our page on smoke alarms).
- Perform an inspection of your residence and eliminate any obstacles that interfere with the normal emergency exit pathways and include function checks of the doors and windows. Remember to brief overnight guests on their primary and secondary exits and the designated meeting place. Stress the importance of "get out and stay out", even if you suspect a person or a pet may still be inside.
- Keep a cell phone at hand or in a car and plan to call 9-1-1 from outside the fire building.
- Consider installing automatic sprinkler protection.
Common Residential Fire Causes
- Smoking while in bed or on upholstered furniture when you are tired and/or under the influence of liquor or drugs.
- Unattended burning candles that are knocked over by wind or pets, or burn down and ignite nearby combustibles.
- Using grills too close to the house.
- Adding lighter fluid to already burning charcoal or wood fire grills.
- Storing ashes thought to be cool in a combustible container.
- Using or storing gasoline inside a home.
- Leaving cooking appliances unattended when cooking on the stovetop.
- Ignoring near-lightning strikes.
Clutter and Hoarding
Simply put, the less obstructions in the exit pathways, the easier and quicker you can escape from a fire situation, and the faster we can move through your home to rescue victims and extinguish the fire.
Remove Fire Hazards
- Recycle instead of storing excess papers and magazines.
- Check appliances for frayed electrical wiring and repair any water leaks that are near electrical wires.
- Provide adequate clearance from combustibles around heating appliances.
- Check and replace air filters on furnaces and other appliances on a regular basis to prevent motors from overheating.
- Store flammable liquids in approved containers and away from children, pets, exits, and sources of ignition.
- Lay oily and paint-soaked rags out in the sun until they are dry, or thoroughly soak them with water, before placing them in trash cans.
- Store other household and lawn and garden chemicals in dry locations safely away from children and pets. If you have old chemicals that you are no longer using, please go our household hazardous waste page.
Check Fire and Life Safety Devices
- Assure carbon monoxide (CO) and smoke alarms are functioning. Test these devices on a regular basis and (if applicable) replace batteries regularly.
- Make certain your numerical home address is easily readable from the street, in all weather conditions.
- Assure home fire extinguishers are installed near exit doors and check its gauge to make sure the arrow remains in the green. If you have any question that the extinguisher will function properly have it serviced or replace it. (Non-functioning extinguishers are accepted via the county's household hazardous waste program.
- You should have flashlights and a battery powered radio available in case of emergencies or bad weather. Check that these items are where you think they are, have fresh batteries, and are in good working condition.
How You Can Assist Us
- If you smell smoke or gas, quickly evacuate the building and call 9-1-1 after you are outside.
- When we arrive, give us a rapid report on whether everyone is accounted for and if you know the fire location. Please be aware we may have to make openings in the roof and break windows to vent the heat and smoke and to speed extinguishment.
- Know that life safety (including our own) is our number one priority and we will make every effort to find and rescue anyone trapped in the building. Some fires cause solid smoke-created darkness, which presents more difficult obstacles to a successful rescue.
- If it is determined that an imminent collapse or flashover (all contents and surfaces ignite simultaneously) potential exists, all firefighters will be ordered to evacuate the building, and firefighting operations will continue from safer outside positions.