You Can Prevent A Household Fire

You Can Prevent A Household Fire

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house fire

One of the scariest experiences I went through growing up was a household fire. It was just one week before Christmas, a howling wind was blowing, and suddenly a neighbor’s teenager came crashing through our front door to tell us that our home was ablaze. Within minutes everyone was out of the house, the fire department on the scene, but it took more than two hours to get the blaze under control. Heavy smoke and water damage rendered the home inhabitable for six months; we were forced to rent another home until the renovation could be completed.

Our story is not too different from what thousands of homeowners experience each month — a house catches on fire, but could it have been prevented? In our case, sparks from a neighbor’s chimney were to blame as they shot up and landed on our roof and wooden gutters. Flamed by the wind, the fire quickly spread and gutted the third story of our frame house.

Though we could not personally have prevented our fire from happening, a lot of home fires are preventable. Carelessness can lead to injury, even death, at the very least lead to a damaged home and destroyed possessions.

Fires are caused or could be prevented by doing the following:

A supplemental heating source — kerosene heaters, electric space heaters, and the like contribute to about one-quarter of all household fires. Left on high and left unattended, these units can quickly catch on fire and spread to nearby curtains, bedding, or other flammable material. Always turn your supplemental heater off when not in the home and keep it away from anything that could catch fire.

Check your home’s wiring — rodents and other pests love to take shelter in homes to avoid nature’s wrath as well as to propagate. They also will chew on insulation, wood, and wiring. Have a professional inspect your wiring to ensure that it isn’t frayed or broken.

Inspect your breaker box — circuit breakers, fuse boxes, or electrical panels which have overloaded can be a problem. Inspect the breakers or fuses to see if any of the connections are “piggy-backed” on them. Although these types of connections are rated for single circuit protection, they can be outdated or used in panel boxes which are too small. Sometimes, homeowners will use 2 or more wires in the terminal of a single breaker or fuse, a fire hazard that can be avoided.

Check your heating system — inspect your home’s heating system (natural gas, oil, LP, etc.) Check for fittings which are loose, valves that may be leaking, pilot lights which could be faulty, and remove any build up of flammable debris in the vicinity of your heating system. Consider similar maintenance precautions with your central air-conditioning unit and major appliances.

Maintain your fireplace — check the hearth for cracks, replace damaged sheet metal inserts, and always use glass fire doors or a wire mesh spark screen to hot embers from popping out of the fireplace. Have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually; avoid burning cedar as this type of wood pops considerably.

Miscellany — there are many other ways you can prevent a fire including: keeping flammable sources away from open flames; get rid of your Christmas tree once it has dried up; take care when using candles, open flame decorations, or oil lamps; make sure that all lamp and other connecting chords are not frayed; and keep the batteries in your smoke alarm fresh. Consider a carbon monoxide unit too — in some jurisdictions they are required by law.

You can prevent most household fires, reducing the chances that someone will be injured or killed as a result. If you have young children in your home, develop an exit plan and never encourage youngsters to light matches, play with candles, or perform any task involving an ignitable source without adult supervision.


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