Home fires are one of the most devastating things that could happen to your home. Even a small fire can cause thousands of dollars in damages and lengthy repairs. Small fires can also quickly ignite into large burns like wildfires, causing extensive damage. In 2018, wildfires in California burned over 4.8 million acres.
Whether you own your home or rent, it’s important to take steps to reduce your chance of a home fire. Use these tips to help minimize your risk of starting a home fire.
1. Practice Stove Safety
Home fires are often found in the kitchen, and the stove is one of the easiest places for a fire to start. Practice safety around your stove to help reduce your chance of starting a fire. This includes keeping flammable objects away from the stove. Never place drapes or wall hangings over the stove or lay dish towels on the stove’s surface.
Stove safety includes properly cleaning and caring for your oven as well. Clean up food spills or burns from your oven after cooking. You should also keep an eye on hot cooking surfaces. Whether an open gas flame or an electric griddle, watch any pots or pans you may have cooking and remember to turn the burner off when not in use.
2. Properly Store Flammable Products
Household chemicals like cleaning products or paint should be stored away from heat sources in their original containers. Cleaning chemicals and toiletries, such as hair spray, should be stored in a cool, dry place. Even exposure to sunlight can cause an aerosol can to potentially explode. Gas, paint and flammable oils stored outside should be kept in an area that stays relatively cool, such as a garden shed or garage.
3. Keep an Eye on Outdoor Fires
Enjoying time with family and friends on a brisk evening with a bonfire or firepit is a great way to spend a night. It’s important, however, that you keep an eye on any outdoor fire. As summer winds down and the weather cools off, it’s often dry and breezy. Leaving your outdoor fire unattended could lead to a spark that starts a wildfire.
As you enjoy your outdoor fire, be sure you have a bucket of water and water source nearby and ready to extinguish the fire if something goes wrong. You should also create your firepit using nonflammable materials such as stone. At the end of the night, make sure your fire is completely extinguished with dosing the flames and checking for hot spots within the ashes.
4. Repair or Replace Worn Out Electrical Cords
Worn electrical cords can be a potentially huge fire hazard. Worn cords and frayed edges are more prone to sparking than other electrical cords. Often, these cords are hidden behind furniture or elsewhere out of the way. In the event of a spark, you may not realize there is a fire at first. This gives the flame time to grow and get out of hand.
Always check your power cords for signs of wear, especially for wear from small animals like mice chewing on the cords. If you find cords that are worn or frayed, either replace them or repair the worn sections.
5. Test Fire Alarm Systems
Your smoke detectors may be your first defense in getting your family out safely in the event of a home fire. Neglecting proper maintenance on your fire alarms and smoke detectors could have terrible consequences. Check smoke detector batteries frequently, at least once a month. Replace any batteries that are dead or failing so you can be sure the alarm is working properly.
6. Take Care with Indoor Fires
Wood stoves, fireplaces and candles are great for creating ambiance and coziness as days cool down. Anytime you bring fire inside, however, you increase your risk of a home fire. Follow safe burning practices when using a wood stove or fireplace. Both wood stoves and fireplaces should have a sturdy metal or glass door or fire screen to help limit sparks from escaping.
After properly extinguishing your fire, give ashes enough time to cool before removing them. Properly dispose of ashes in a dedicated metal bin and never put hot ashes in a plastic trash can with other flammable trash.
7. Have a Plan
Creating a plan for what to do in a fire can help ensure the safety of your family. Make sure the family is on the same page about where to exit the home and where to meet outside of the house in the event of a fire. Take a look at your home’s utilities and appliances to find the off switch for each. This might include the power breaker, power sources for appliances or your water heater’s pilot light.
8. Create a Wildfire Defensible Space
Limiting your risk of indoor fires is important. Minimizing your risk of outdoor fires, like wildfires, is equally important. California was the leader in the number of acres burned by wildfires in 2018. The Butte County Camp Fire alone burned over 150,000 acres and over 18,800 structures. One step to preventing wildfires from destroying your home is to use a wildifre defensible space. Defensible spaces are designed to reduce the risk of a fire reaching your home by limiting brush and plants near your home.
Reducing your risk of fire, unfortunately, doesn’t eliminate the possibility of a fire breaking out in your home. While no one can completely prevent a fire, your homeowners insurance or renters insurance policy can help protect your home and belongings in the event of a fire. Learn more about homeowners insurance from Wawanesa and get a free quote to help keep your home safe fires.