The end of October is a few days away. Even though Fire Prevention week is past, many fire departments across Dallas, north Texas, and the country take the month to educate people on the causes of home fires. Most of the emphasis is placed on reaching school age children with presentations at schools reasoning that if kids are educated, they’ll teach their parents what to do should a home fire occur.
Two weeks ago, we posted the top five causes of home fires which are: cooking fires, heating equipment, careless smoking, electrical equipment, and candles. The second 5 top causes of home fires are:
- Children playing with fire
- Inadequate wiring
- Flammable liquids
- Christmas trees / decorations
Children Playing with Fire: Kids are naturally inquisitive and matches are, well, kind of neat. There’s something fascinating watching them flare up when you strike them. My friends and I used to “kick” kitchen matches at each other like paper footballs. The goal was to make them flare up while the person holding their fingers like a goal is not to flinch. Crazy, but that’s one of the things we did.
A child may be playing with fire if you find them with matches or a lighter (or in their room), smell sulfur in their room, find toys, clothing, or other personal items singed or melted. The common reasons for children playing with fire include feeling curious, upset, or angry. If you find your child playing with fire, calmly explain the dangers to them, their family and friends. Most children will respond to a calm, logical explanation.
Inadequate Wiring: My wife and I live in a home that was built in the mid 1950’s and it does not have the electrical capacity of homes currently being built. There are fewer outlets and most don’t have three prongs. It would be easy to overload our electrical system even with it having an updated electrical panel that has circuit breakers.
To keep things safe we don’t overload outlets with power strips and plugs with multiple outlets. If you live in a home of a similar age play it safe by minimizing the number of multiple outlet strips and plugs. Trying to run too many things at once or lights dimming when you run another appliance can be signs of an overloaded stressed system that can lead to a fire hazard. Give some thought to replacing the panel with a heavier duty one that can support the needs of big screen TV’s, multiple appliances, computers, etc.
Flammable Liquids: Most home owners have some flammable liquids in the home such as rubbing alcohol, paints, solvents, thinners, adhesives, or fuel for lawn mowers and trimmers. Store all fuel in a cool dry place, away from appliances that generate heat or sources of static electricity. These can be more safely stored in a garage than inside the home, and they should always be stored out of the reach of children.
Christmas Trees and Decorations: I love a real Christmas tree. There’s nothing like the scent it gives off to make me feel ready for the holidays. One of my favorite things is to turn off all the lights except for the ones on the tree when the house is quiet. It’s peaceful and reminds me of what’s truly important.
As beautiful as a real tree is to me, they also burn easily. I don’t place the tree near any heat sources such as air ducts, portable heaters, candles, or electronic items such as a TV. I also check the light strands to make sure there are no frayed or damaged areas. If there are, that strand gets recycled and replaced with a new one. Place a real tree in a tree holder that holds plenty of water and top it off daily. Never leave the lights on the tree on when you’re not home.
Barbeques: I love to grill and do so the entire year; summer, fall, winter, and spring. I have a gas and charcoal grill and everything tastes better when it’s cooked over fire, even my cooking!
If you have a gas grill, be sure to perform regular maintenance on it. Clean and replace leaky connections, hoses, and burners. If you use a charcoal grill, avoid grilling in windy conditions when the grass is dry (summer or winter). Sparks fly and it’s too easy for the grass to catch fire and have it get away from you in those conditions. Wet the ground around the grill to protect against falling embers and ash. Never leave a grill unattended and watch for flammable items that are too close such as tree limbs, deck rails, the home, or outdoor furniture.
Most home fires can be avoided with a little thought and taking a few corrective steps to prevent it. Share your suggestions, experiences, and questions with us in the comments section of our blog or on our Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you!