Home fires are still a problem. One doesn’t really need statistics to know that. Just read the paper, watch the news or (better yet) just listen to the not-infrequent sounds of fire engines racing down the street. They’re not racing around and making all that noise just to celebrate somebody’s birthday. Home fires still happen and it’s basically for two reasons… bad equipment and bad habits.
“Bad Equipment” refers to equipment and devices that are fire hazards and “Bad Habits” refers to the ways people use these devices that leads to fires. It actually takes both… to create a fire.
When we say ‘bad’ equipment we mean any mechanical or electrical device around the home that either malfunctions or is used incorrectly in such a way as to create a fire hazard and/or start a fire. Here’s some of the most common types of devices that do that.
- Kitchen fires… start mostly with overheating. The solution is just to ‘watch it’. And don’t forget that cooking oil, although it looks harmless, can become a big problem in just an instant if/when it overheats.
- Home heating equipment… old furnace systems become a big fire hazard especially when they’re not properly maintenanced. Coal, home heating oil, natural gas or even fully electric systems can malfunction. Space heaters a a huge problem in colder weather. Bottom line? Use these devices properly and keep these thing maintained and in repair.
- Electrical devices… electrical gadgets are nice but electricity causes fires too. Electrically powered kitchen devices like toasters, toaster ovens, crock pots, electrical stoves, blenders… they’re all nice to have. But just be sure they work correctly are used properly.
- Candles… yeah. Candles are simply things but they’re very dangerous. We tell kids all the time to ‘don’t play with fire’, but adults do it with candles all the time. Keep lit candles in proper containment devices (i.e. not just sitting on a table surface) and never forget to blow them out when no longer needed.
- Wiring… ‘electrical living’ is great but over-loaded, improperly designed, improperly maintained, or improperly fused wiring systems very easily can start a home fire. It never hurts to keep a home fire extinguisher near your wiring box.
- Flammable Liquids… ‘Better Living Through Chemistry’ has some truth to it but always be careful of how you use and store flammable liquids. Many common household liquids are highly flammable. So… be careful how you use them and also how you store them.
- Christmas Trees and Decorations… Everybody loves Christmas and the holiday season but that’s also a season for house fires originating with a Christmas tree. Keep your tree-stand full of water (so the tree doesn’t dry out too fast and become more flammable), keep a fire-extinguisher nearby, don’t ever use lighted candles on a tree and be sure the electrical lights you use are in good condition.
- Barbeques… Barbecuing is lots of fun but they can start fires too. Most often it’s because they weren’t kept clean and the built-up, combustible material suddenly ‘flammed up’. Also be careful with ‘starter’ fluids and how you regulate the cooking fuel itself… i.e. wood, propane, etc. And of course… keep your eye on the barbeque unit and don’t place it near any other flammable substances.
The second category, ‘Bad Habits’…
This simply refers to the fact that most home fires could have been prevented if people were just paying attention to what they were doing and/or properly used whatever it was that started the fire. Most home equipment and devices have clear instructions and precautions written either on them or on the instructions.
The most common thing that firefighter hears after a fire is, “I should have known better!” Maintenance does sometimes take a little money but it’s a lot cheaper than the possible alternative of burning your house down. The other issue, i.e. that you were probably warned about the danger… well, that’s up to you. An ounce of prevention is worth thousands of dollars of cure, right?