More than 3,400 Americans die each year in fires and approximately 17,500 are injured. An overwhelming number of fires occur in the home. There are time-tested ways to prevent and survive a fire. It’s not a question of luck. It’s a matter of planning ahead.
Preventing Chimney Fires
Keep Fireplaces and Wood Stoves Clean
Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials.
Leave glass doors open while burning a fire. Leaving the doors open ensures that the fire receives enough air to ensure complete combustion and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney.
Close glass doors when the fire is out to keep air from the chimney opening from getting into the room. Most glass fireplace doors have a metal mesh screen which should be closed when the glass doors are open. This mesh screen helps keep embers from getting out of the fireplace area.
Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces that do not have a glass fireplace door.
Install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures.
Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces. Otherwise, you may cause creosote buildup that could lead to a chimney fire.
Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves.
Safely Burn Fuels
Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.
Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.
Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove.
When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.
Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from your home and any other nearby buildings. Never empty the ash directly into a trash can. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.
Protect the Outside of Your Home
Stack firewood outdoors at least 30 feet away from your home.
Keep the roof clear of leaves, pine needles and other debris.
Cover the chimney with a mesh screen spark arrester.
Remove branches hanging above the chimney, flues or vents.
Protect the Inside of Your Home
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and inside and outside of sleeping areas. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Consider installing the new long life smoke alarms.
Provide proper venting systems for all heating equipment.
Extend all vent pipes at least three feet above the roof.
Fire Prevention for Kids
Don’t play with matches. In fact, don’t even pick them up. If you find matches or a lighter on the floor, be sure to tell an adult. This goes for lit candles, too.
Check your house for smoke detectors. There should be at least one on every floor of your home. And ask you parents when the batteries were last changed. Most fire departments recommend changing batteries twice a year — in the fall when you set clocks back and in the spring when you set them forward.
Check your house for fire hazards. Fireplaces and electrical cords should be checked regularly to make sure they are in good working order. If there is an adult in the home who smokes, make sure that he disposes of his ashes frequently in a heavy metal container.
Make a family fire safety plan. What should you do if you hear the smoke alarm in the middle of the night? Talk to your family about where you should go and what you should all do in the event of a fire. There should be two ways to escape from every room (in case one way is blocked by fire.) And you should pick a location outside — a neighbor’s house, a big tree, a nearby park — where everyone can meet.
Practice your fire safety plan. Don’t just talk about it —run through your plan to make sure everyone knows what to do. Check windows and screens to make sure that they will open if necessary. And practice meeting up at your assigned location outside.
If there is a fire in your home, remember this important fire safety tip: Don’t hide, go outside! You may be scared, but never hide during a fire. Get outside and wait for your parents or caregivers at your assigned spot.
The best way to escape in the event of a fire is to fall and crawl. Get low to the ground where there is less smoke in the air and crawl your way to safety.
If your clothes are on fire, don’t panic. Remember to stop, drop and roll. Keep rolling until the fire is out. Don’t run — it will make the fire spread faster.
Never go back inside a burning building. You made a fire safety plan with your family, now stick to it! Once you get to the designated meeting spot, stay there and wait for your family to arrive.
Know your emergency phone numbers. Call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency. You should also know the number for a nearby emergency contact (a relative, friend, or neighbor) who can respond quickly if your family needs help.
How to Put Out Kitchen Fires
When a fire starts in the kitchen, you need to act fast to keep the fire from getting out of control. But how you act depends on what kind of fire you have and where it is. Follow these instructions for putting out kitchen fires:
If you have a fire in the oven or the microwave, close the door or keep it closed, and turn off the oven. Don’t open the door! The lack of oxygen will suffocate the flames.
If your oven continues to smoke like a fire is still going on in there, call the fire department.
If you have a fire in a cooking pan, use an oven mitt to clap on the lid, then move the pan off the burner, and turn off the stove. The lack of oxygen will stop the flames in a pot.
If you can’t safely put the lid on a flaming pan or you don’t have a lid for the pan, use your fire extinguisher. Aim at the base of the fire — not the flames.
Never use water to put out grease fires! Water repels grease and can spread the fire by splattering the grease. Instead, try one of these methods:
If the fire is small, cover the pan with a lid and turn off the burner.
Throw lots of baking soda or salt on it. Never use flour, which can explode or make the fire worse.
Smother the fire with a wet towel or other large wet cloth.
Use a fire extinguisher.
Don’t swat at a fire with a towel, apron, or other clothing. You’re likely to fan the flames and spread the fire.
If the fire is spreading and you can’t control it, get everyone out of the house and call 911! Make sure everybody in your family knows how to get out of the house safely in case of a fire. Practice your fire escape route.
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