According to UK Government stats, in the year 2017/2018 there were 27621 accidental fires in homes. 25% of these – 6869 cases – were due to faulty fuel supplies, appliances and leads. Most of the fires (75%) were due to human daftness, i.e. ‘Oops I forgot to keep an eye on the chip pan’, or ‘Heck, who knew that lining up pretty tea-light candles on the floor by the window might set fire to the curtains…?’.
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However, let’s suppose that you’re not prone to daftness, you’re super careful and never set naked flames near things that could catch fire. And because you’re vigilant and sensible, you’re thinking that a fire in your home could never happen, right? I thought the same. Until yesterday.
IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU
My mother rang me late in the evening, understandably unnerved. The fire brigade had just left. She’d had a fire in the house. My immediate concern was for Mino, my beautiful , elderly dobermann who I’d left at her house while I was away working with my other dog. She reassured me that both she and Mino were OK.
Whilst she was in the kitchen cooking, she’d smelled smoke. She went to the front door to see if she could work out where the smell was coming from, imagining that it was outside. On not seeing anything, she went back to the kitchen…. to see flames coming out from the kitchen cupboards where the built-in freezer was.
HOW TO PUT OUT AN ELECTRICAL FIRE
Thankfully, she has both smoke alarms and a fire extinguisher in the home. She quickly grabbed the extinguisher and pointed it through the gap under the freezer, where the flames were coming from. Once the fire seemed to be out, she rang the fire brigade. They told her to wait outside, so she grabbed Mino and waited out front.
2 minutes later and 2 noisy, flashing light fire engines pulled up outside the house. Isn’t it great that we have such a fast and efficient fire service, at least where she lives? At this point all my mother is thinking is ‘OMG, how embarrassing, you can’t hide this from the neighbours.” I pointed out to her that being embarrassed (though there was no need to be) is better than have your house burn down.
AN ELECTRICAL FAULT FIRE
The fire brigade pulled out the offensive freezer, confirming that it was responsible for the fire. Bizarrely the freezer was actually still working. They checked everything, talked about the importance of smoke alarms and then… petted Mino. Yep, once the job was done, the lovely people wanted to give Mino some treats and some love.
So, apart from a kitchen filled with soot and fire extinguisher powder, we got off VERY lightly. Had she been asleep when it happened, the fire might have done more damage until the smoke alarms would have woken her up. What really terrifies me though, is what might happen if there is a fire while we are out and the dogs are in the house alone. How would they get out?
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR PETS FROM A HOUSE FIRE?
Beyond never leaving them at home alone (totally impractical), the only thing that immediately occurred to me was to install a doggy door so they could at least get out into the garden. However, they’re big dogs and a doggy door for them would be the perfect size for burglars too.
Then I realised that we live in an age of technological everything, so I started googling smart smoke alarms. A few ebay clicks later and I ordered a wifi smart smoke alarm that will send a message to my mobile if the smoke alarm goes off. Excellent! Next job: get the phone numbers of all my neighbours so that if I ever receive that dreaded message on my phone, I can mobilise the neighbours to break the door down and get my beloved pooches out.
I’d rather lose all my personal belongings than lose either of my fur babies, as they are the world to me. You may or may not have pets, but what you MUST have in your home are smoke alarms and a fire extinguisher. DON’T think, ‘It won’t happen to me’.
6869 people in the UK thought that in the year 2017/2018 too…
BEST FIRE EXTINGUISHER FOR HOMES
What if at the time you don’t know what type of fire it is? Sounds dumb, but when you have flames coming out from your kitchen cupboards how are you to know if it’s electrical or due to some dipstick who put away an ashtray / joss-stick holder / candle when it wasn’t properly extinguished?
There are extinguishers for many types of fire, but a certified ABC dry powder extinguisher is a multi-purpose option that can put out most types of fires and is suitable for homes. The ‘ABC’ refers to Class A: rubbish, wood, textiles and paper; Class B: liquids and gases; Class C: energised electrical equipment fires.
Get a wall bracket for your extinguisher and locate it in a central place that you can easily access from any room – ours is kept in the hall.
HOW TO PUT OUT A CHIP PAN FIRE
Sadly however, your ABC powder extinguisher isn’t any good for putting out a chip pan fire. Apparently, the old advice of throwing a wet tea towel over the pan is equally useless: if it’s too wet it will cause a small explosion. You can only use a type F extinguisher or a fire blanket on a chip pan fire. It’s a really good idea to keep a fire blanket near your cooker, especially if, like many Brits, you are a deep-fat, fried food fan.
How to put out a chip pan fire
- Throw a fire blanket over the fire to smother it or use an ABF fire extinguisher
- Turn off the heat source
- Leave it for 20 minutes to let it cool down before removing the fire blanket
DO NOT USE WATER!!
HOW TO CLEAN YOUR HOME AFTER A HOUSE FIRE
If, like my mother, you put the fire out using a powder extinguisher, you’ll have powder everywhere. The first step is to vacuum up all the powder and soot that you can.
If you have textiles covered in soot and powder – curtains or tea towels for example – wash them at least twice in the washing machine. Adding half a cup of vinegar to the water will help get rid of the smokey smell.
Any larger items that can’t be washed – like your sofa for instance – can be vacuumed. Ideally, these items should be aired outside to get rid of the smoke smell but to do that you need to have somewhere under cover – a garage or car port for example. You can also rent a steam cleaner for upholstery and carpets. Again, adding vinegar to the cleaning water should help.
Soot is not easy to clean off hard surfaces. It smears, so instead of using a cloth, use disposable paper towels or kitchen roll. You’ll have to throw the towel away after each wipe to avoid smearing the soot further. Wipe down the surfaces using a vinegar / water solution.
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