Residential fires take their toll every year in lost lives and destroyed property. The fact is, many conditions that cause fires can be avoided or prevented by homeowners. Taking the time for some simple precautions, preventive inspections, and concrete planning can help prevent fire in the home - and can even save your life should disaster strike.
- Any electrical devices including lamps, appliances, and electronic equipment should be checked for frayed cords, loose or broken plugs, and exposed wiring. Never run electrical wires under carpet or rugs.
- Wood-burning fireplaces should be cleaned by a professional chimney sweep each year to prevent a dangerous buildup of creosote, which can cause a flash fire in the chimney. Cracks in masonry chimneys should be repaired, and spark arresters inspected.
- When using space heaters or baseboard heaters, keep them away from beds and bedding, curtains, papers - anything flammable. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for use. Space heaters shouldn't be left unattended or where a child or pet could knock them over.
- Use smoke detectors and at least one carbon monoxide detector and keep them armed with fresh batteries unless hard-wired to your home's electrical system. Smoke detectors should be installed high on walls or on ceilings on every level of the home and inside each bedroom. Statistics show that nearly 60% of home fire fatalities occur in homes without working smoke alarms.
- Kitchen fires know no season. Grease spills, items left unattended on the stove or in the oven, and food left in toasters can catch fire quickly. Don't wear loose fitting clothing, especially with long sleeves, around the stove. Handles of pots and pans should be turned away from the front of the stove to prevent accidental contact. Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher within easy reach. We had an incident where an oven mitten was left on the plate warming element was smoldering.
- Children should not have access to or be allowed to play with matches or lighters. Flammable materials such as gasoline or kerosene should be stored outside the house.
- Have an escape plan. This is one of the most important measures you can take to prevent death in a fire. Your local fire department can provide detailed recommendations on escape planning and preparedness. In addition, all family members should know how to dial 911in case of fire or other emergency.
- Live Christmas trees should be kept in a water-filled stand and checked daily for dehydration. Needles should not easily break off a freshly-cut tree. Brown needles or a lot of fallen needles indicate a dangerously dried-out tree, which should be discarded immediately. Always use nonflammable decorations in the home, and never use lights on a dried-out tree!
- Candles should be placed in stable holders and placed away from curtains, drafts, pets, and children. Never leave candles unattended, even for a short time.
- Christmas or other holiday lights should be checked for fraying or broken wires and plugs. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines when joining two or more strands together, as a fire hazard could result from overload. Enjoy your indoor holiday lighting only while someone is home!