Fire Prevention and Safety

Fire is a vigorous chemical reaction commonly used for heating, cooking, illumination, manufacturing and transportation.  Fire requires: heat, fuel and air.  Fire produces heat, light and smoke.  Heat is not only required for fire, it is also a product of fire.  Once a fire begins, a heat chain-reaction sustains the fire as long as fuel and air are available.

Fire is also a dangerous phenomenon that can destroy property, blister and char flesh, as well as choke breathing.  It's far more sensible to prevent or escape a fire, than it is to treat the burns and smoke inhalation resulting from exposure to a fire.

Because air is always present, the best fire prevention is to prevent fuel and heat being present at the same time; however, in today's society, keeping fuel and heat separate may not be possible.  Some common sources of heat are matches, lighters, cigarettes, lightning, cook stoves, ovens, fireplaces, space heaters, furnace, dryers, water heaters, light bulbs, electrical outlets, overloaded or frayed extension cords, toasters, vehicle exhaust, coffee makers, any open flame or hot object.  In using common conveniences that produce heat and fuel, additional care should be taken.

Fire Categories & Extinguisher Application
Fires can be extinguished by removing or shutting off the fuel source; cooling the heat by dousing with water; or denying air or smothering it.  Fuels are divided into five categories:

  • Class A:  water or dry chemical-typical combustibles (wood, paper or cloth)
  • Class B:  flammable liquids( gasoline, grease, oil or organic solvents)
  • Class C:  energized electrical equipment (wire, motors or appliances) 
  • Class D:  metals (magnesium or aluminum) 
  • Class K:  wet agent such as hot cooking oils

Each type of fuel has a specialized portable extinguisher, which can be identified by the class (A, B, C, D or K).  The chemical contained within each class of extinguisher varies.  Class A extinguisher contains monoammonium phosphate; Class B can contain Aqueous Film Forming Foam, sodium carbonate, monoammonium phosphate or carbon dioxide (CO2); Class C can be potassium bicarbonate or monoammonium phosphate or carbon dioxide (CO2); Class D is a dry powder of graphite or sodium carbonate; Class K contains potassium acetate. 

The most common and useful type of extinguisher is Class ABC, as it contains a dry chemical (monoammonium phosphate) that can be used on three classes of fire (A, B and C).

Never throw water or flour
on a cooking oil or oven fire (Class K).  Water will merely spatter the grease and spread the fire.  Try to smother the fire with a pot lid or by closing the oven door.

Importance of Smoke Detectors, Sprinklers & Having an Escape Plan with a meeting place
The thick, toxic, suffocating smoke of a structure fire has killed far more people than the heat of a fire ever has.  A smoke detector is the single most important early warning device for a residential fire.  Smoke rises and smoke detectors should be located close to the ceiling on each floor and near any bedrooms in your house.  Smoke detectors should be tested every month and the batteries should be replaced twice a year-when time changes in Spring and Fall.

Smoke detector testing not only ensures it works properly, it also familiarizes those nearby with the noise it makes upon detecting smoke.  If you hear a smoke detector activate or is you see smoke or fire in a building or house, don't hide!  Get low and crawl to an exit.  Feel closed doors for heat before opening them.  Warn others of the fire and smoke or, let them know if you can't get out or are trapped .  Close doors behind you as you leave to prevent the fire and smoke from spreading.  Never go back into a burning buildingIf you or your clothes catch fire-Stop, Drop & Roll.

Sprinklers are probably the single most important modern innovation to prevent the loss of life and protect property from fire. Sprinklers are usually located high in a room and are connected to a water sources with stiff, sturdy iron pipes. Sprinklers are valves that open when exposed to heat spraying water on the burning material, thereby cooling and extinguishing the fire.

Always look for exits and stairs when entering and moving through a building or house so that you know at least two ways out.  Remember, windows will almost always provide an exit.  Develop an escape plan for everyone and from every room in your house.  Have a meeting place for your family at a safe location outside your house and call for help from the meeting place.

Firefighter Gear
Firefighters wear specialized clothes and gear to protect themselves from fire, smoke and heat when entering a burning building.  Typical equipment includes a heavy coat, hood and pants, boots, a distinctive hard hate and gloves.  Firefighters also wear a mask that coverts their entire face and is connected to a high-pressure air cylinder so they can breathe fresh air and prevent eye irritation in the thick, toxic, suffocating smoke.

Firefighters also carry an axe, halligan bar and pike pole for breaking windows, opening doors and tearing holes in walls so they can get to the fire and rescue people.  They have hoses full of pressurized water to spray, cool and extinguish fires, as well as big fans to push smoke out of the building.

Don't Play with Fire
Don't play with matches or lighters.  Let an adult know if you see someone playing with matches or a lighters, or if you see fire or smoke.  If you or your clothes catch fire-stop, drop and roll to smother the fire and deny it air.  When the flames have been extinguished, cool the burn with water, cover the burn with clean, dry dressing and bandages, then go to the hospital as soon as possible for additional treatment.