LDS Emergency Preparedness

Be Prepared, Not Scared!

My House is on Fire!

Posted by Elise on December 15, 2010

What Would You Do If Your Home Caught Fire?


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Last Christmas wasn’t the safest of times for a local family. A fire started in the oven, probably ignited by food that spilled over onto the heating coils. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and the fire was contained by keeping the oven door closed. But the smoke that poured from the oven spread ash throughout the house. Their insurance company sent in a cleaning crew that took almost three days to finish the job. The oven is not salvageable, and some furniture will have to be reupholstered.

This fire was relatively small. But Chief Steven Westermann, president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, says that the incident has lessons for us all…

Have an escape plan for fires. If you don’t already have one, the City of Phoenix has a good guide on its Web site, Get everyone out of the house immediately if a kitchen fire spreads beyond a pot or pan. Do not try to extinguish the fire.

Call 911 even if a fire seems minor. A fire can double in size every minute and may take only three or four minutes to spread throughout a house.

Know where your fire extinguisher is — and how to work it. This sounds obvious, but many people forget after not having to use it for many years. Instructions are clearly marked. Review them regularly so that you won’t need the reminder in case of a fire.

Contain flames. When using the oven, put cookie sheets under the bakeware so that spills stay off of the heating elements. If something starts flaming, turn off the oven and keep the oven door closed.

Most kitchen fires start on top of the stove, especially when frying in fat. If a grease fire occurs, immediately cover the pan with a lid to shut off the oxygen supply. It’s old advice to never leave the stove unattended when a burner is on, yet far too many people still do — while simmering soups or stews, for example.

Install smoke alarms on every level of your home — typically, at the top and bottom of staircases. Replace batteries annually. A sprinkler system is highly recommended. If you are building a new house, have a sprinkler system installed at the start.

Unfortunately, a home owner’s problems usually don’t end once the fire is out. “Clean up is tricky,” says Peter Duncanson, director of training and technical support for disaster restoration at ServiceMaster Clean.  “Wiping up ashes with a wet cloth will make even more of a mess. And all fires give off a gas that damages stainless steel, glass, marble and other substances.”

To prevent contamination of the entire house after any house fire, Peter suggests putting cheesecloth or other filters over all air vents and keeping the room where the fire started closed off for as long as possible. The actual cleanup is best done by restoration professionals. They will pretreat certain materials, test various chemicals to see what works and deodorize the home. Immediate cleanup is critical to prevent permanent damage and protect your health. Your insurance carrier can provide more information to help you minimize your loss.

Source: Steven Westermann, former president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.


2 Responses to “My House is on Fire!”

  1. Michael said

    In the case of fires, you can purchase a Stove Guard, that will automatically shut off your stove should you become distracted and leave the presence of your stove for a preset time-frame. These work very well for people who frequently forget things.

    • A good invention. There are also Fire Prevention Vents that resist flames and embers:

      foundation vent
      fire plug
      eave and soffit vent
      dormer vent
      gable end vent

      Thanks for stopping by.

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