According to Safewise (an independent review site), a home fire occurs every 86 seconds in America and fires destroy almost half a million structures every year. Californians in particularly aware of the dangers that home fires and wildfires present. And while we can’t control nature, there are things Fresno residents can do to make their homes safer. Here’s a look at how to protect your home against fires.
Precautions Inside Your Home
- In the Kitchen: Roughly 50 percent of all house fires begin in the kitchen. That makes this a logical place to begin your interior fire prevention activities. One simple thing you can do is to keep your cooking area clear of flammable items. That includes things such as dishcloths, hot pads, and cooking mitts. Don’t even leave your cookbook unattended near a cooking surface. It’s also a good idea to keep curtains at least three feet away. Don’t leave items cooking unsupervised on the stovetop (pots, griddles, pans).
- In the Laundry Room: You may think of your laundry room as a “wet” room that’s unlikely to be the source of a fire. Dryers, however, can cause house fires. Lint can get caught in the lint trap—or in the vent to the outside. Empty your lint trap after every load and check your vents to the outside every six months or so to ensure that you don't have lint blocking the vent. Also, if you have a gas dryer, you should have it inspected yearly to make sure there are no gas leaks.
- Keep an Eye on Electrical Cords: Electrical cords can produce heat. That’s why it’s important to make sure they aren’t covered by rugs or other items. If you find any cords that are frayed, replace them immediately. It’s a lot cheaper to replace a cord than your whole house.
- Check Chimneys and Fireplaces: If you have a home with a fireplace that you use, make sure to have the chimney cleaned regularly. While newer fireplaces burn much more efficiently (and are cleaner) residue can still build up and cause a fire hazard. It’s also a good idea to install a metal fire screen in front of your fireplace to keep sparks from escaping. Never leave a fire unattended. Before you dispose of ashes, make sure they have had plenty of time to cool down, and then place the ashes in a metal container that is set aside exclusively for ash disposal.
- Safe Storage of Flammable Items: Many household items (such as cleaning solutions, hair spray, etc.) are flammable. Make sure you keep these products away from heat and in a vented area.
- Maintain Smoke Detectors and Fire Extinguishers: You should test your smoke detectors regularly. It’s a good idea to replace the batteries every time you change your clocks to or from Daylight savings time. And while having a fire extinguisher is a great idea, you’ll want to make sure that it’s charged. Check it at least once a year to make sure the charge is still good. Keep one in close proximity to the kitchen and consider another for high-risk areas such as a fireplace.
Precautions Outside Your Home
There are steps you can take outside your home that can make your house easier to protect from fires that start outside. The Fresno Country Fire Protection District has helpful information about how to maintain what they call “Defensible Space” around your home. They have guidelines for two zones around your home (Zone 1 extends 30 feet out from buildings, structures, decks, etc. and Zone 2 extends 100 feet out from buildings, structures, decks, etc.) Visit their website for specific steps you can take to keep the outside of your home safe in the event of a wildfire.
An Ounce of Prevention . . .”
Benjamin Franklin famously claimed that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” While many people today assume that refers to health issues, Franklin actually used it when addressing fire safety in colonial America. His words are as applicable for your Fresno home today as when he first penned them.