It takes just about 30 seconds for a small fire to turn into a major blaze. That same fire can destroy your home in minutes. Spending some time to fireproof your home, inside and out, can help to protect it. Fireproofing can also buy you precious time if you need to escape your home and get to safety.
Whether it’s a fire that accidentally started in your home or a wildfire in your area that could affect you, the following guide lists ways to reduce the risks.
Inside Your Home
The kitchen is a common place for fires to start while we’re cooking.
- Clean the grease and oil on your stovetop and around your stove. These oil deposits are fuel for a fire.
- Avoid storing things above or around the stove that can catch fire, such as pot holders, paper towels, and wooden spoons. Make sure flammable cleaning chemicals are stored safely away, too.
- Stay in the kitchen when you’re cooking. Don’t leave your home with the oven on.
- If a fire occurs in the kitchen, cover the flames and remove it from the heat. Don’t douse it with water. That can cause an explosion of oil. See our blog for tips on how to prevent and handle cooking fires.
Electrical outlets can only handle a certain amount of power. Overloading them can lead to a fire.
- Don’t overload outlets. Limit the use of extension cords. Don’t plug too many appliances into one outlet.
- Unplug appliances (coffee maker, toaster) when not in use.
- Plug large appliances directly into wall outlets, not into extension cords.
- If you’re constantly tripping the breaker or blowing a fuse, you’re either overloading your outlets or you may have something wrong with your electrical system. Get it checked out.
Space heaters can sometimes spark a fire. Position them carefully.
- Place your space heater on a hard non-flammable and level surface.
- Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn.
- Avoid putting heater cords where they can be pinched by furniture, under rugs, or carpets.
- Turn off the heater and unplug it when you leave the room or go to bed.
Pro Tip: Choose a space heater with an automatic shutoff safety switch if it is overheated or tipped over.
Dryers are filled with dust, fibers, and lint that is fuel for fires.
- Clean the lint filter in your dryer before each use.
- Check the air vent pipe at least once a year and remove built-up lint.
- Clothes stained with chemicals or cooking oil should not be put into a hot dryer, even after a wash cycle. Use the lowest setting.
- Install a smoke detector in each bedroom and in areas outside bedrooms. Make sure there is at least one on every floor.
- Test batteries every month. Change batteries twice a year. Replace smoke alarms at least every 10 years.
- Get a fire extinguisher and keep it in an easily accessible location. Make sure it is an ABC-rated extinguisher that is good for fires involving combustible materials, flammable liquids, and electrical equipment.
If you’re planning a home improvement project, consider fire doors and fire-resistant flooring.
- Fire doors can hold flames and smoke back, giving you time to escape.
- Synthetic and wool carpets spread fire. Fire-resistant carpets slow down the spread.
- You can also treat your carpet with flame retardants.
Outside Your Home
Depending upon the material, roofs and siding can catch fire. Chimneys also can ignite.
- You may not have a choice in the material of your roof. But if you do, choose fireproof options such as tile, metal, or concrete.
- Similarly, choose materials like stucco or stone for siding. If you must use wood, paint it with a fire-resistant coating.
- Embers can enter through openings. Cover soffit vents and gable end vents with 1/8-inch wire mesh.
- If you have a chimney, get it professionally inspected and cleaned once a year. The buildup that sticks to the inner walls is flammable.
Clogged gutters filled with leaves, branches, and other debris are flammable.
- Clean your gutters regularly and consider gutter guards to keep debris out.
- Choose metal gutters rather than vinyl ones that can melt during a fire.
Windows can break when exposed to extreme heat.
- Install dual pane window glass, which is thicker and can last longer than traditional glass in a fire. These windows are also energy-efficient and can save you money.
- Windows are usually framed in wood, which can be a way for fire to enter your home. Instead, frame windows in metal.
- Replace nylon window screens, which may melt, with metal screens.
- Consider nonflammable shutters, which are similar to hurricane shutters.
When doing home improvement projects, choose materials that are fire-retardant.
- Replace wood decks with tile, concrete, brick, or stone.
- Use fire-resistant materials, when possible, with your projects. Examples include gypsum boards, perlite boards, calcium or sodium silicates, treated fibers (cotton, hemp, flax), treated lumber, brick, concrete, and cement.
Fire prevention starts in the yard. Create a border around your home that is fireproof.
- Get rid of flammable vegetation and replace it if desired with fire-resistant plants. Examples include California lilac, ornamental strawberry, French lavender, California Fuchsia. These plants are high in moisture content.
- Similarly, plant fire-resistant trees such as cherry, birch, and poplar.
- Replace mulch with gravel. Mulch is highly flammable while gravel is not.
- Consider paving with stone or concrete to create an additional barrier.
Trees could fall and carry the fire danger right to your home.
- Trim trees near your house so that fiery branches will have fewer chances to drop on your roof.
- Downed power lines are electrical fire hazards. If your trees are growing between the power lines, report them to your power company, which may come and trim them for you.
Water can be effective in slowing down a fire.
- Invest in fire sprinklers which release water when they detect fire. (These are also available for the interior of the home.)
- Wet down your deck, bushes, and grass if you are anticipating a wildfire danger.
Make sure you have home insurance that protects against damage caused by accidental fires and wildfires. The right insurance provides peace of mind in the event of a fire.
If you’d like to learn more, see our blog about fire zones and what they mean for your home.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.