How to Keep Your Rentals Safe From Fire Hazards

“Have we had our chimney cleaned this year mom?” asked a voice from the back seat.
“No? Are you worried about fires buddy?” I said in reply.
“No, not really but the fire department has a sign asking about it.“

I looked up and sure enough saw the sign flashing various warnings, cleaning the chimney among them.  The Friday of that same week, we went to buy our Christmas tree at the lot near the Earlieigh Heights Fire Station.  The kids, almost in unison, remarked that it was interesting that trees, the cause of so many fires, are sold right out of the parking lot of the very people who put the fires out.  These conversations got me thinking about fires.

I thought back to all the posters my kids have made over the years about fire safety and wondered if we were fire safe. Smoke detectors: check. Fire escape plan: check.  Is there more to it than that?   

I thought back to the conversation I had in the car following my son’s inquisition about the chimney.  We didn’t have our chimney cleaned this year.  In fact, we haven’t had our chimney cleaned in probably all the 17 years we have lived in our house.  I even chuckled to myself that were probably a giant fire hazard.

And then I thought back to the fire seven years ago that took the lives of 4 children and their grandparents in Annapolis.  And fire safety didn’t seem so lighthearted and easy to put off.

Did you know that from November to March, house fire deaths reach their peak?  Do you know the most common cause of house fires during these months?  Candles, space heaters, and cooking top the charts for fire starters.  Do you know the top three days for fires?  Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Eve: I can’t imagine a worse way to ring in the New Year.   

The good news is, however, most of these fires are preventable with a little extra attention and education.

Preventing House Fires

1. Using space heaters correctly

Space Heaters need three feet of space all the way around them and to be well away from combustibles to be safe. (Common household combustibles include: rubbing alcohol, aerosol sprays, dryer lint, cooking oil, and mattresses.)   Space heaters should be unplugged, or at the very least turned off when you are not in the room.  In addition, only one heating element should be plugged into an outlet at a time.    For example, if you have a coffee pot plugged into an outlet, the pot should be unplugged before you plug in a space heater.  If you are going to invest in a space heater, an oil filled radiator is a safer option.  Click here to buy one

fire extinguisher

2. Cooking safely

Most cooking fires happen when many stove top elements are being used at a time. Hyper vigilance is critical when you have several “irons in the fire.”  Be aware of which burners are on and where your oven mitts, cooking utensils, and towels are. 

In addition to being aware while cooking, having the appropriate fire extinguishing tools at hand is helpful. (Fire extinguishers for sale ) Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and familiarize yourself with how it works.  Know how to put out a grease fire.  Grease fires should be put out by turning off the oven, closing the oven door or putting a lid on the pot on fire. 

3. Using candles appropriately with supervision 

Most candle fires happen as a result of loss of power.  People light candles to see and then leave them unattended or fall asleep with them still burning.  In fact, one third of candle fires are from unattended candles.  Keep watch over the flame.  Better yet, buy and have on hand flashlights and battery-operated lanterns for times when the power goes out (Battery Operated Lanterns for Indoor Use)

christmas tree with lights

4. Watering and disposing of the holiday tree appropriately 

If you have ever burned your dried out Christmas tree in a bonfire before, you know the power a Christmas tree has.  It sounds like a roaring engine and flames reach up much higher than you would expect.

Be sure to check the water level of your holiday tree daily.  Studies have shown that trees that are watered daily fair better in a fire.  In fact, a tree watered daily takes 7 minutes to ignite and extinguishes itself.  Whereas a tree watered weekly caught on fire in 5-30 seconds and burned into a raging inferno.  Watch this video to see the study in action.

While your tree is displayed, make sure to turn off the lights when you go to bed or leave the house.  In addition, take down the tree once the season is over.  Fire departments recommend tossing the tree by the first of January.

5. Checking chimneys and vents

As my son wisely told me earlier this week, helps to prevent fires.  One fifth of home fire deaths involve heating equipment, so having your HVAC and chimney inspected by an expert once a year is important. Here you will find a local HVAC expert we trust.

6.Educating is also an important step in fire prevention.  Every home needs to know the following:

a.STOP, DROP, and ROLL if you catch fire

b.STAY LOW and GO if there is a fire

c.Have and practice an evacuation plan (have two planned exits in case one exit is blocked by fire)

d.Make sure everyone in the home knows to call 911 in case of an emergency

e.Keep lighters and matches out of reach of small children

In short:

  1. Take a field trip through your house to note and fix potential fire hazards
  2. Educate the household members on fire safety and evacuation plans
  3. Service your chimney and HVAC once a year

These simple actions can help you and your loved ones avoid the unimaginable tragedy of a house fire and focus on the gratitude of living.

References:

Bui, Lynh. Christmas Tree that Fueled a Fire that Killed 6 People was to be Tossed the Next Day.  The Washington Post.  August 5, 2015.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/annapolis-mansion-fire-report-to-be-released-wednesday-morning/2015/08/04/e55eb858-3ad4-11e5-8e98-115a3cf7d7ae_story.html

Hirsh, Daniel. What is the Safest Space Heater? Heater Tips, Accessed: 11, December 2022.  https://heatertips.com/what-is-the-safest-space-heater/#:~:text=Now%20that%20we%20know%20why,any%20built%2Din%20moving%20parts.

National Fire Protection Association.  Put a Freeze on Winter Fires.  Accessed: 10, December 2022. NFPA.org

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