J&M KEYSTONE, INC.

House Fires

How do house fires start?

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are normally about 360,000 home fires annually – causing $6-8 billion in damages. Among the most common causes of house fires are:

  • Cooking Equipment
    Splattering grease or overheated pots and pans can spark a fire in a matter of seconds. When cooking, it’s imperative you stay in the kitchen to keep an eye on things as most kitchen fires begin when cooks become distracted.
  • Smoking
    You should never place an ashtray close to anything that will burn. Also, keep an eye on smokers in your house who become sleepy from medication or other things.
  • Electrical Wiring
    Inspect all of your electrical appliances to make sure there are no frayed wires. It’s also a good idea to make sure your outlets are not overloaded and that the wires or cords are not being run underneath rugs.
  • Candles
    Sure, they’re romantic but they’re also dangerous. In fact, the NFPA says that between 2007-2011, there were 10,630 house fires started by candles.
  • Children Playing With Fire
    Make sure matches, lighter and lighter fluid are well out of reach of children.
  • Christmas Tree Decorations
    If you put up a tree, remember to keep it in a stand that hold 2-3 liters of water – and that you fill it daily.

How do I prevent a house fire?

There are quite a few proactive measures you can take – most of which are based upon the causes above – to reduce the chances of a house fire.

  • Regularly check for faulty wiring throughout your structure.
  • Be on the lookout for wires that have frayed.
  • Don’t pinch or cover wiring or electrical cords with things such as rugs.
  • Don’t overload the electrical circuits.
  • Be especially careful in the kitchen
  • Don’t leave cooking equipment (pots, pans, etc.) on the stove unattended.
  • Because grease and other excess from previous meals can later ignite a fire, be sure to keep the cooking area clean.

How do house fires spread?

Fires need fuel to burn, and there’s plenty of fuel in the average American home. Items that can be used as fuel for fires include clutter (magazines, newspapers, cardboard, etc.), wood furniture and flammable liquids (housecleaning products, oils, paint thinners, etc.).

Typically, a fire will travel much faster in open areas. Your HVAC ventilation system also serves as a conduit or channel for which fire and smoke can travel.

How fast does a house fire spread?

With the right kind of conditions, even a small flame can get can get out of control in a matter of in less than 30 seconds. Just minutes later, an entire home or office building can be engulfed in black smoke.

How do I escape a house fire?

If you don’t have a fire escape plan in place when a fire occurs, you should:

  • Get down on the floor
  • If possible, hold a piece of cloth to your mouth and nose to filter out the smoke
  • Crawl to primary exit
    • If closed doors are warm to the touch, look for other exits
    • If your only exit is a window, smash outward the lower corners with a blunt object, then cover the exposed edges with clothing or cushions before going through
  • Never go for the elevator during an apartment fire. Locate the staircase and use it to find safety.
  • If you find yourself trapped in a room, place damp towels or cloths around the frame of the door to keep smoke from coming in.
  • Once you are safely out, stay out; do not attempt to reenter the structure to find someone else.

Creating a Fire Escape Plan
It’s imperative, however, to create a fire escape plan for you, your family members and co-workers. The NFPA reports that a fire plan can help reduce the risk of injury and can often prevent the damages associated with fires if it is practiced by family members or employees on a regular basis.

Creating a fire safety plan should never be put off: in fact, if you do not already have one, start today!

Although roughly three-fourths of all homeowners have some sort of fire plan, only a third claim to have done a practice run. When you do not practice what you are required to do in an emergency, it can put you and your family at serious risk when a real situation arises. Here are some ideas to consider when designing a fire safety plan:

  1. Get everyone involved in the fire escape plan. They will need it as much as you. Walk through as a family or work group and note all the possible escape routes. You and your family or co-workers can work together to create an escape map if that helps, as well as outlining the position of the smoke detectors.
  2. Make sure all doors and windows are easy to open. Windows that have been painted shut or are very old can be difficult for a child or an elderly person to open. Take a few moments and check all the doors and windows in the house. Use lubricant to allow the smooth opening of any window or door that tends to stick.
  3. Place smoke detectors all around the house. They should be in every room where someone sleeps and in all main rooms. They are often the initial warning of a fire and are vital when you are asleep. Change the batteries every six months or choose a hard-wired version and have it professional installed.
  4. Decide on a suitable meeting place such as at the mailbox or at a designated spot in the parking lot.  Parents have died running back into a burning home for a child when the child was outside all along.
  5. Teach young children to dial 911 and what to say in an emergency. They should know your address so they can guide rescue personnel.
  6. Practice the fire drill. You should hold a fire drill at least twice a year. Many people choose to change their smoke alarm batteries when the time changes as this is easy to remember, so you may want to schedule your fire drills around this time as well. To add some authenticity to the practice, mix up the time. You should have a daytime practice as well as waking your family late at night to simulate a real scenario.
  7. Learn to get low and keep under the smoke. Always have a “stay-in” plan in case the fire is too strong to go outside.

How do I keep my pets safe from a house fire?

Your pets are a part of your family, so it only makes sense to have a supply kit ready specifically for them.

This can include:

  • 3-5 days’ worth of canned or dry food
  • 2-week supply of your pets’ medicines
  • Photocopies of your pets’ medical records
  • A 7-day supply of water for each person and each pet
  • Aluminum pans to serve as disposable litter trays
  • Extra leash and collar (Include a collar that lights up so that your pet is easier to find in the smoke)
  • Feeding dishes and water bowls specifically for your pets
  • Have your pet microchipped so that it can be easily identified if you’re separated
  • Place a pet alert sticker on your door window – making sure to include the number of pets in your home
  • Make sure your pet is never left alone near an open flame, as wagging tails can quickly knock it over
  • Install pet doors so that your pet has an easy escape route

How do I put out a house fire?

If you don’t already have a fire extinguisher, now’s the time to get one. Most of your hardware stores will be labeled as “A:B:C”; this typically means that they’ll work for just about any type of fire.

Read further below for information on how to select the right fire extinguisher for your home or business.

When flames are noticed, it’s key to maintain your cool. To make this easy, remember the acronym PASS.

  1. Pull the safety pin on the extinguisher
  2. Aim the hose at the source – or base – of the flames rather than their peak as you stand at least six (6) feet away from the fire.
  3. Squeeze the extinguisher’s trigger and hold it while keeping the extinguisher in an upright position.
  4. Sweep the nozzle and forth over the source – or base – of the flames.

Putting Out Electrical Fires (Do NOT Use Water because you could be shocked!)
In an earlier issue, we shared tips for recognizing if your home or business is about to experience an electrical fire.

If you notice an electrical fire, do not use water! Instead, turn off the power and then cover the fire with a non-flammable blanket.

Putting Out Kitchen or Cooking Fires
Again, your first action should be to turn off the power. Then, since most fires in the kitchen are sparked by grease, cover the pan with a metal lid.

If there’s no lid available, cover the flames with baking soda – which contains sodium bicarbonate, just like a Class C fire extinguisher.

Putting Out a Gas Fire
Turn off the gas supply, then cover the flames with a thick rug. You can also use cool water or your fire extinguisher.

How do I choose the right fire extinguisher?

When home or business fires start, fire extinguishers are often the first line of defense in efforts to choke out the flames. It’s important to know, however, that not all fire extinguishers are created equal.

In this article, we’ll provide you with tips on making sure you have the right fire extinguisher on-hand in your home or business.

How Fire Extinguishers Are Classified

A: Used for putting out fires made of everyday home items made of wood, paper, cardboard and most plastics.

B: Designed for fires involving flammable liquids like gasoline, grease, oil and oil-based products.

C: Intended to be used with fires involving electrical items like appliances, tools and other equipment that’s plugged in.

Extinguishers with A:B:C markings on the label are capable of handling all three of those types of fires.

The weight listing indicates the amount of fire-fighting chemical within the canister.

  • 10-pound containers are ideal for garages and home workshops where it may take a while for a fire to be noticed.
  • 5-pouund containers are perfect for quick-grab access to put out fires in the kitchen or laundry room.
  • 2-pound containers are good to keep in automobiles. It’s best to also look for mounting hardware so that the extinguisher doesn’t roll around in the trunk.


How do I use a fire extinguisher?

When flames are noticed, it’s key to maintain your cool. To make this easy, remember the acronym PASS.

  1. Pull the safety pin on the extinguisher
  2. Aim the hose at the source – or base – of the flames rather than their peak as you stand at least six (6) feet away from the fire.
  3. Squeeze the extinguisher’s trigger and hold it while keeping the extinguisher in an upright position.
  4. Sweep the nozzle and forth over the source – or base – of the flames.


Where Should I Place Fire Extinguishers?

Storage locations of fire extinguishers should be based around the idea of being able to have one in your possession within six (6) seconds of becoming aware of the fire.

At the bare minimum, extinguishers should be available on all floors of your home or business. Specifically, make sure you have one in:

  • The kitchen
  • Each bedroom
  • The laundry room
  • The garage or home workshop
  • The utility rooms
  • Special areas like campers, boats, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and all other types of items that contain fuel

Where should I place smoke alarms?

Smoke alarms should be a key part of your home fire escape plan. Here are a few tips that will allow you get the maximum protection from smoke alarms:

  • Each sleeping room should have one – even the basement
  • Test all smoke alarms at least once per month
  • Ionization smoke alarms are quick to warn about flames while Photoelectric alarms do a good job of alerting to smoldering fires – it’s best to use both types in your home
  • Install your alarms on the ceiling or high on a wall
  • Alarms should be kept out of the kitchen so that false alarms are reduced
  • Replace your alarms when they are 10-years-old

How does house fire insurance work?

Few people realize that fire insurance comes in different forms, and there are several ways you can structure your coverage, including:

  • Actual-Cash-Value Policy
    Pays the original price of what is lost minus the depreciation. In other words, you won’t receive full replacement price of the items but will get their open market price for being sold “as is.”
  • Replacement-Value Policy
    A bit more expensive by provides the money to replace everything lost in the fire with new items.
  • Guaranteed (or) Extended-Replacement-Value Policy
    These cover the replacement costs that exceed the total of the coverage. In most instances, you’ll be asked to set a limit for covering replacements for your home and contents. If the limit is too low, this policy will cover the difference.

Most insurance providers will encourage you to set your coverage limits between 50%-70% of the price of a building replacement. For example, if your home is covered for $500,000, you should have at least $250,000 worth of contents coverage.

How Risk Areas Are Determined by Insurance Companies

Residents living in high-risk areas can purchase bare-bones coverage for fire through the California FAIR Plan.

In California, insurance companies rely upon the FireLine system to determine the potential risks to properties that are insured. Specifically, three factors are analyzed:

  • Availability of fuel for the fire (trees, grass, and dense brush)
  • An area’s slope – a steep slope can increase the speed and intensity of wildfires
  • Access for fire fighting equipment

While providers used to assign risks to whole neighborhoods so that everyone there paid mostly the same rates, today they can zero in on a specific home and price the policy to that specific address.

One insurance provider said that a home or business owner who might have paid $2,000 for fire coverage five years ago may be looking at rates of $4,000 today for the same policy on the same structure.

Who helps after a house fire?

The recovery, cleaning, and restoration process after a home or business fire is usually a very involved one. While it may be tempting to “call a friend of a friend” who you might think is capable of doing the job, your best bet is to leverage the skills of a licensed professional.

  • Initial cleanup done the right way.
    Cleaning up as much of the affected area as possible is the obvious first step in the restoration process. But it’s a bit more complicated than sweeping and scrubbing. For example, dust masks should be worn at all times, and the area should be open to allow for ventilation.

Also, thorough cleaning should be done from the ceilings to the floor…in that order. Then all floors and upholstery should be professionally cleaned.

Any delay in cleaning things the right way can have long-lasting effects, including the possible build-up of acid in the bathrooms and throughout the structure.

  • Your home or business will be much safer afterward with a professional in charge of the restoration process.
    Only properly trained professionals know where to find hidden dangers, like black mold. Even with a new paint job to spruce the place up, other serious health dangers could be lurking just beneath the surface if you decide not to go with a professional restoration provider.
  • Less stress for you.
    If you’re the victim of a fire, chances are better than average that your mind will be elsewhere when it comes time to do things that need to be done, like dealing with the insurance provider.

Hiring a restoration professional is a sure-fire way to get lots of stress-inducing responsibilities off your plate.

  • The right training, the right tools, and the right experience.
    With a licensed fire restoration professional, there’s no guesswork. They’re ready to tackle the fire restoration project at a moment’s notice and have the right tools to do the job.

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