“There was a civilian fire death every 2 hours and 42 minutes and a civilian fire injury every 33 minutes in 2013.”
On August 22 this year, the Sanpete County Fairgrounds held the 3rd Annual Firemen’s Challenge. Firefighters from cities within Sanpete County competed. This year, Wales took the win. As a resident of Wales and a volunteer firefighter, I was extremely proud. Plus, my better half helped bring home the win!
From the Mayor of Wales:
This competition got me thinking about fire safety as it relates to homeowners in Sanpete County. Fire safety should be of top concern, whether you just bought a new home or have lived in your home for years. Today, I’m going to share with you some of the top causes of house fires and some tips for protecting your family and your home.
Top Causes of Home Fires
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, here are the top 6 causes of residential fires:
- Cooking 49.4%
- Heating 12.9%
- Electrical Malfunction 6.1%
- Unintentional Carelessness 5.5%
- Open Flame 4.6%
- Appliances 4.5%
Fire Safety Tips for Your Home
“60% of house fire deaths occur in homes with no working smoke alarms.”
When moving into a new home, it is good practice to change smoke alarm batteries and test the alarms for functionality. The National Fire Protection Association also recommends the following:
- Install smoke alarms inside and outside each bedroom and sleeping area and on every level of a home.
- If possible, use interconnected smoke alarms. They are better than traditional alarms, because when one sounds they all do.
- Test smoke alarms once a month.
- Use both ionization smoke alarms and photoelectric alarms in your home to help detect flaming fires and smoldering ones.
- Install alarms high on the ceilings or walls and at least 10 feet from the stove.
- Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old.
A Fire Safety Home Escape Plan
During a fire, it can be dark, smoky and very hot. This can be disorienting. Make sure all family members, especially small children, know your home escape plan in case of fire. When you move into a new home is the best time to discuss with family how your fire escape plan will work.
Wood Burning Stove Fire Safety
Here in Sanpete County, many of us use a wood burning stove to heat our homes. This presents a unique set of fire safety concerns.
- Installation: Wood stoves require minimum safe distances from combustible materials on all sides of the stove. Research the correct distance for your stove and add heat shields when needed.
- Ventilation: Most wood burning stove fires originate within the venting system. A venting system should consist of 24 gauge (or heavier) stovepipe which connects to an approved chimney. A chimney is not a venting system!
- Wood: Hardwoods are the best fuel for a wood stove and should be thoroughly dried before use.
- Cleaning: Use a wire brush to clean your stovepipe and chimney at least once a year.
- Creosote: Wood stoves are slow burning and produce a relatively low flue temperature. This causes unburned gases to not completely vent out of the chimney. They build up along the stovepipe and chimney. The result can look like a sticky liquid, a flaky black deposit, or a glazed tar-like substance. It is vital to remove these deposits during maintenance to prevent fires.
Since cooking is the primary cause of fire in residential buildings, it should be top priority to follow these guidelines.
- Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food.
- Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing while cooking.
- Do not cook if you are sleepy, have been drinking, or have taken medications that make you drowsy.
- Teach children that cooking areas are not play areas and make them off limits while in use.
- Position BBQ grills 10 feet from combustibles and out from under eaves and overhangs.
- Invest in a kitchen fire extinguisher of the proper class. Many people go with A, B, C or K class extinguishers. Each class handles different fire types.
If you intend to burn agriculturally, your best bet is to follow the instructions of the fire warden.
Outdoor Fire Prevention and Defensible Space
Wildfires threaten homes all over Utah every year. Make sure to follow these tips to give your property a defensible space in the case of a wildfire or home fire that threatens to spread around your property.
- Clean your roof and gutters to avoid combustible build-up.
- Keep trees at least 10 feet away from any flue opening or chimney.
- Install non-flammable screens over flue openings.
- Cut branches off of trees to a height of 15 feet.
- Dispose of ashes and coals in a metal bucket only after they are cold or soaked in water.
- Gasoline and other flammables should be kept away from heating sources and in approved buildings and containers.
- Propane should be far enough away from a building to allow for shut-off in case of fire.
- Family members should be familiar with all home shut-off valves.
- Keep areas around your property and near your home clear of flammable vegetation. This creates a defensible area, in the event of a wildfire, that may save your home.
- Keep a garden hose connected to a water outlet.
- Make sure your address can be found from the road for emergency vehicles.
- Make sure private roads are at least 16 feet wide and not overgrown.
Most home fire prevention can be accomplished easily with a little pre-planning and maintenance. When you move into a new home, it is best to evaluate your property for fire safety. Don’t wait until it is too late.
Note: All of these tips can help prevent fires, but if your home is damaged in a fire anyway, your homeowner’s policy will be your go-to for financial help. Each policy varies in details of coverage and should be reviewed periodically. So, for one final tip, make sure your home is insured for the proper amount for the home itself and its contents.
Once again, congratulations to Wales for winning the Annual Firemen’s Challenge!
If you have questions about fire safety for your home or real estate in general, please leave them in the comments.