It may be cold outside, but that doesn’t mean fires are unlikely to occur. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Many statistics show that winter is when most home fires occur, primarily due to cooking or improper heating techniques, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). When dealing with small house fires it’s important to understand that trying to fight a fire on your own could actually make the problem worse if it’s not done correctly.
If you don’t know exactly what you’d do in the event of a small house fire, or if you’re unsure about the state of your home’s fire safety, the time to prepare is now. Once a fire starts, you have only seconds to act. We want to help you be safe by explaining how to put out different types of fires. Please remember that it’s never wise to put yourself in danger just to put out a fire. Your home and possessions can be replaced; you cannot.
Homes today are filled with dozens of small appliances, and all of them are potential fire hazards. About half of all appliance fires are due to user error, while others are caused by mechanical or electrical problems. Depending on the appliance, you should do the following to extinguish the flames:
Microwave – Shut the door, turn the microwave off and unplug it, if you can reach the plug safely. The lack of oxygen should suffocate the flames.
Oven – Like microwave fires, close the oven door and turn it off. If flames begin to come out of the top, sides or bottom of the oven, reach for a multipurpose fire extinguisher or baking soda to put out the flames.
Television – A television can catch fire if there is insufficient space around it for air to circulate, or if objects are placed too close – think curtains, birthday cards, candles or other knick knacks – and the heat from the television causes them to ignite. Electrical components inside the television can also overheat and implode, causing a fire. If smoke or flames are coming out of your television, unplug the cord and douse the flames with a fire extinguisher or water. Never try to smother the flames with a blanket, as you risk having it catch fire as well.
- Reach for a multipurpose fire extinguisher or smother the flames with a blanket.
- Unplug the device from the electrical source if you can safely do so.
- Turn off power to the device from the main switch if you can safely do so.
The natural gas that powers many stovetops, fireplaces and heating sources can overheat the surrounding structures (like a fireplace mantel) and set them on fire. If you smell a gas leak, you should call the gas company immediately and turn off the gas at its source. Liquid gas fires (like gasoline) can be put out by smothering with a blanket. If that doesn’t work, or if there’s no blanket nearby, use a fire extinguisher. Water is ineffective in putting out a gas fire and can increase the chance of injury, as the heat from the fire will boil the water almost immediately, putting you at risk for steam burns.
Kitchen Grease Fires
- Cover the flames with a pan lid. Avoid glass lids, as extreme heat may cause them to shatter.
- Smother the flames with baking soda. Avoid flour or sugar, which can lead to a dynamite-like explosion.
- Reach for a dry chemical fire extinguisher (a class K extinguisher will also work, but these are usually found in commercial kitchens).
Wood Burning Fireplace
- Spread out the logs and embers to help cool the fire quickly.
- Cover the logs and embers with ashes from the bottom of the fireplace.
- Cover the logs and embers with sand or baking soda to ensure any smoldering embers are completely extinguished.
- You shouldn’t see any flames or feel any heat coming from a the fireplace if the fire was properly extinguished.
When to Evacuate
Fires, even those that start small, can quickly rage out of control. It takes only two minutes for a fire to turn from manageable to life-threatening, and only five before the house is engulfed in flames. The heat and smoke from a fire are also extremely dangerous. Smoke inhalation can suffocate you, and the super-heated air can burn your nose and lungs. Some fire departments recommended calling 911 immediately if a fire of any size breaks out in your home. If you do attempt to put out a fire by yourself, act quickly, and keep yourself between the fire and an exit so you have a quick escape. If the fire does not begin to die down almost immediately, get everybody in the house out.
If a fire breaks out in your home, act responsibly. If your attempts to extinguish the flames do nothing, drop everything and get out. Nothing in the house is worth saving more than your life. Not every fire is small enough to handle on your own, so always call a professional if you’re unsure. For any restoration service or tips on handling future issues, contact Xtreme Home Improvement.