Fire Safety

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Inside the Home
Smoke Detectors
Fire Safety in Urban-Interface Areas
The Wood Shake and Shingle Roof Hazard
Fireplace Safety
Think "Fire Prevention"


Inside the Home

Cooking Safety

  • Keep a close eye on your cooking. If you must leave the kitchen for a short time, take a pot holder or another item along to remind you that something’s on the stove.
  • Declare a three – foot (one – meter) “kid – free zone’’ around your stove and keep kids and pets away.
  • Stay alert. Don’t cook if you’re sleepy, if you have been drinking alcohol or if you are taking medication that makes you drowsy.
  • Keep pot holders, food packaging, dish towels and any other combustibles off your stove top.
  • Keep your kitchen clean. Built-up grease can catch fire. Clean your oven, stove and countertops often.
  • Roll up your sleeves. Keep loose clothing away from burners and hot ovens.
  • Turn pot handles in to avoid bumping a pot and spilling hot food. Use back burners whenever possible.
  • Keep curtains and anything that burns at least three feet (one meter) away from your stove.

Space Heater Safety

  • Keep all space heaters at least three feet (one meter) away from walls, furniture and anything else that can burn.
  • Use only space heaters that carry the label of an independent testing lab.
  • Have your central – heating system serviced professionally before the start of each heating season.
  • Have your chimney inspected (and cleaned when necessary) once a year (see Fireplace Safety).
  • If you have a fireplace, use a screen to catch sparks.
  • Keep fireplace fires small and never burn trash or anything except wood in your fireplace.
  • Never use or store propane gas tanks inside your home.
  • If you have a wood stove, have it inspected professionally once a year and be sure it conforms to local installation codes.
  • Use only cast-iron or steel wood burning stoves that carry the label of an independent testing lab.

Electrical Safety

  • Be sure your fuses and circuit breakers are sufficient for the loads (amperage) that each circuit is designed to handle.
  • Use only one heat-producing appliance on the same circuit at a time.
  • Install ground fault circuit interrupter protection (GFCI’s) for all kitchen-counter, outdoor, basement, garage and bathroom outlets.
  • Replace damaged appliance and extension cords. Don’t plug extension cords into each other.
  • Don’t run extension cords under carpets, across doorways or pinch them under furniture or between walls and furniture.
  • If any power tool or appliance feels too hot or smells funny, unplug it immediately and have it serviced or replaced.

General Home Safety

  • Install at least one smoke detector on every floor of your home, including the basement and in each sleeping room and a point centrally located in the corridor or area giving access to each sleeping area.
  • Know the sound of your smoke detector. Newer models feature a universal signal pattern – three beeps followed by a one and a half second pause.
  • “Change your clocks, change your batteries.” Replace batteries in smoke detectors twice a year.
  • Test all smoke detectors every month and replace any detectors more than ten years old.
  • Consider having an automatic home fire sprinkler system installed.
  • Keep combustible materials and flammable liquids away from furnaces and water heaters.
  • Have your entire household help make a home fire escape plan and practice it at least twice a year.
  • Know two unobstructed exits (usually a door and a window) from each room in your home.

Smoke Detectors

If you have any smoke detector questions please click on this link to hopefully get the answers: Smoke Detector Information [PDF]

Keeping Your Property Fire Safe in Urban-Interface Areas

The manner in which a house is designed, location on which it is built, materials in its construction and access to it all influence survivability during wildfire. Presented below are recommendations modified from California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s publication "How to Make Your Home Fire Safe“. When coupled with an effective defensible space, these recommendations will make a home much safer to defend and improve its chances of surviving a wildfire.

  1. Roof

    • Remove dead branches overhanging your roof.
    • Remove any branches within 10 feet of your chimney.
    • Clean all dead leaves and needles from your roof and gutters. Install a roof that meets the fire resistance classification of “Class B“.
    • Cover your chimney outlet and stove pipe with a nonflammable screen of ½ inch or smaller mesh – approved for this application, also known as a spark arrester.

  2. Construction

    • Use fire resistant building materials.
    • Enclose the underside of balconies and aboveground decks with fire resistant materials.
    • Install only dual-paned or triple-paned windows.
    • An automatic fire sprinkler system is required in all newly constructed residential dwellings.

  3. Yard

    • Stack woodpiles at least 30 feet from all structures and clear away flammable vegetation within 10 feet of wood piles.
    • Locate LPG tanks (butane and propane) at least 30 feet from any structure and surround them with 10 feet of clearance.
    • Remove all stacks of construction materials, pine needles, leaves and other debris from your yard.

  4. Access

    • Identify at least two exit routes from your neighborhood.
    • Construct private roads that allow two-way traffic.
    • Design private road width, grade and curves to allow access for large emergency vehicles.
    • Construct driveways to allow large emergency equipment to reach your house.
    • Design bridges to carry heavy emergency vehicles, including bulldozers carried on large trucks.
    • Post clear road signs to show traffic restrictions on private roads such as dead-end roads, and weight and height limitations.
    • Make sure private dead-end roads and long driveways have turnaround areas wide enough for emergency vehicles. Construct turnouts along one-way roads.
    • Clear flammable vegetation at least 10 feet from roads and 5 feet from driveways.
    • Cut back overhanging tree branches above roads.
    • Construct fire barriers, such as green belts, parks, golf courses and athletic fields.
    • Post your house address at the beginning of your driveway or on your house if it is visible from the road.

  5. Outside

    • Designate an emergency meeting place outside your home.
    • Practice emergency exit drills regularly.
    • Make sure that electric service lines, fuse boxes and circuit breaker panels are installed and maintained as prescribed by code.
    • Contact qualified individuals to perform electrical maintenance and repairs.
    • Shut down LPG tanks and natural gas.

The Wood Shake and Shingle Roof Hazard

A house can be threatened by a wildfire in three ways; direct exposure from flames, radiated heat and airborne firebrands. Of these, firebrands account for the majority of homes burned by wildfire. The most vulnerable part of a house to firebrands is the roof. Because of its angle, the roof can catch and trap firebrands. If the roof is constructed of combustible materials such as untreated wood shakes and shingles, the house is in jeopardy of igniting and burning. Not only are combustible roofing materials a hazard to the structures on which they are installed, but also to other houses in the vicinity. Burning wood shakes, for example, can become firebrands, be lifted from the burning roof, carried blocks away and land in receptive fuel beds such as other combustible roofs. Unfortunately for homeowners with existing combustible roofs, there are no long-term reliable measures available to reduce roof vulnerability to wildfire other than re-roofing with fire resistant materials.

Fireplace Safety

Your fireplace is a source of warmth and relaxation. Yet, like any home appliance, it should be safe, properly maintained and good for the environment, inside and out.

Think “Clean”

  1. Have your fireplace inspected and cleaned annually by a National Chimney Sweep Guild certified chimney sweep. A dirty fireplace can cause chimney fires or contribute to air pollution. Your local National Chimney Sweep Guild certified chimney sweep will diagnose your fireplace and recommend what it needs in order to burn cleanly and safely.
  2. Choose the right fuel. In general, hardwood firewood (oak, madrone, hickory, ash, etc.) burns cleaner than soft wood (fir, pine, cedar, etc.). Independent tests have proven that manufactured fire logs burn much cleaner than firewood.
  3. Seasoned wood, wood with a moisture content of less than 20%, burns much cleaner than green (high moisture content) wood. Check with your cord wood supplier to make sure that the wood you purchase is seasoned.
  4. Burn smartly. Good fireplace habits can decrease fuel consumption in the home while maintaining the same level of warmth. Make sure the fire gets enough air to burn properly. Close the damper when the fire is out to keep warm room air inside.
  5. Minimize creosote buildup which causes chimney fires. Creosote is the black tarry or flaky substance formed in chimneys during the wood burning process. While firewood leaves flammable creosote and carbon deposits on chimney walls, tests show that manufactured fire logs leave significantly less creosote accumulation than wood.
  6. Make a fire that fits your fireplace. A fire that’s too large or too hot not only wastes fuel, it can crack your chimney. Check that your manufactured fire logs are UL – approved for use in zero-clearance manufactured metal fireplaces, making them suitable for use in all types of traditional open hearth fireplaces.
  7. Keep your fireplace in good working condition. If you notice any cracks in the chimney, any loose mortar or brick, have your chimney repaired. Have the chimney liner inspected for cracking or deterioration.
  8. Read and follow the label when using firelogs. Manufactured fire logs recommend that consumers use one fire log at a time, starting it with a match in a fireplace at room temperature. Don’t poke or break manufactured logs. This will cause them to crack apart, releasing their energy at a high rate and resulting in a shorter burn time. Fire logs perform best when burned on a supporting fireplace grate with a maximum of three to four inches of space between support bars.
  9. If your fireplace is equipped with glass doors, leave them open while burning a fire log to allow proper draught and cleaner burning. Once you’re sure the fire is extinguished, close the damper and glass doors to retain warm air inside the house.

Think “Fire Prevention”

Being good to the environment also means making sure your fireplace habits are safe and will not pose a danger to your home or your neighborhood.

Remember :

  • Clear the area around the fireplace and chimney. Debris too close to the fireplace could cause a fire. Check the flu for obstructions like birds’ nests and trim any overhanging branches or large trees near the chimney.
  • Always use a fireplace screen.
  • Never overload the fireplace with too many logs. Don’t use the fireplace as an incinerator and never burn garbage, Christmas trees or piles of paper.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand and place smoke detectors throughout the house. Test the smoke detectors and batteries regularly. See that the extinguisher is in good working order and that all family members know how to use it.
  • When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace, preferably on a grate.
  • Never leave fire unattended. Be sure the fire is extinguished before you go to bed.
  • Keep wood stacked, covered, away from the house and off the ground. Bring in only as much as you need for one evening to prevent insects that may be in the wood from entering your home. Fire logs, which are packaged to eliminate insects and mess, can also prevent this problem.

More Fire Safety Information