The Crestone Eagle • March, 2021

Fire prevention at home tips

by Baca Grande Firewise Committee

House fires take the lives and homes of too many people. Read on to learn how to prevent house fires.

According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are more than 350,000 home fires each year nationwide, leading to around 2,000 deaths. Most home fires and fire casualties result from five causes: cooking, heating equipment (woodstoves and space heaters), electrical distribution and lighting equipment, intentional fire setting, and smoking materials. Over the five-year period of 2014–2018 in total, cooking was the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. Smoking materials caused the most home fire deaths.

Fires in the home can be started in a number of ways. Your home is full of objects and materials that can combust under the right conditions. Some of the common causes of house fires are familiar to everyone, while others may surprise you. Identifying and lowering these risks help you lower your chance of house fire, keeping your family and property safer.

Although you can’t control everything, there are some steps you can take to help reduce the risk of fire and smoke damage. Not sure where to begin, or what items in your home pose a threat?

In the kitchen cooking fires are among the most common types of house fires, causing around 48% of all residential fires. The number one cause of home fires is unattended cooking. Make sure that you stay in the room while you are cooking with a heat source. If you cannot stay in the room the whole time, ask another adult in the family to watch over your food.

Most kitchen fires start when a resident leaves food cooking unsupervised on a stove or in an oven. By the time the fire is discovered, it’s usually too late. Thoroughly clean your cookware to prevent grease from building up over time.

Small grease fires can be extinguished quickly by turning off the heat and smothering the fire with a metal lid. Sprinkling baking soda or salt on the fire will also put it out. A class-B or class-K fire extinguisher is also recommended, although the chemicals can create a notable cleanup issue.

Do not use water to put out grease fires. This can cause the hot grease to explode and throw burning grease over the area. 

Portable cooking appliances, such as toasters and electric griddles can also be a source of fires. Never leave these portable appliances unsupervised, and make sure they are cool to the touch before storing them away. Toasters should be regularly cleaned of crumbs that might ignite if they build up inside the appliance. 

According to the American Red Cross, home fires are more likely to start in the kitchen than any other room in the home. The second leading cause of home fires are heating sources like wood stoves and fireplaces. 

Fires caused by smoking are the leading cause of deaths. Don’t smoke in bed or near upholstered furniture, curtains, and linens that can quickly catch fire from a stray ash.

Lit candle use is also the cause of many preventable home fires. FEMA estimates that there are more than 15,000 home candle fires every year, many resulting in injury or even death. More than half of these fires start because the candles are too close to combustible materials, which is something that can be easily preventable. Burning candles should never be left unattended. Keep candles away from flammable materials.

Safety data from the Underwriters Laboratories, thirty years ago, said you had on average 14 to 17 minutes to escape a house fire. Today, with the prevalence of synthetic materials in the home, occupants have roughly 2 to 3 minutes to get out.