Living with fire
Humans have a love/fear relationship with fire. Learning to use fire was one of man’s earliest, most daring and clever accomplishments. Controlling fire, while also living with it has been an enormous and deadly challenge. When your home is mostly made from dry wood you must take fire seriously. Keep a fire extinguisher handy. See also my section on living in wildfire interface areas.
Much of the Uniform Building Code is devoted to keeping your home fire safe for normal use. If your home was designed, constructed, inspected and passed per these codes, your house was beneficiary to being built with thousands of years of accumulated knowledge on controlling and avoiding fires in and around our living spaces.
Even so, accidents and disasters can happen. Wires can short and appliances can fail. Cooks in the kitchen can blunder. Kids with inquisitive minds may experiment with matches, and dads that should know better might accidently spill gas in the garage next to the water heater as it is running. Lightning might strike.
Keep extinguishers handy
In all these cases and more, you need to be able to quickly put out a fire if one starts in or around your home. The best way to do this is with an appropriate fire extinguisher*. You should have one, or possibly several of these, in good operating condition, and in well-known locations so you can find them in your sleep. You should also know how to use them both in theory and through experience.
Extinguishers for the home are readily available at reasonable prices. I highly recommend that you have fresh extinguishers installed at least every two years. I also recommend that when you replace the old units, perhaps utilize the old retired units to train and let your family get some practice using them. Find a safe place where it is easy to clean up (a large empty garbage can, lined with a plastic bag should work,) follow the directions, aim and simply pull the trigger. You do not need a fire to practice, so don’t build one for this purpose. Recycle or discard the used extinguisher per the directions.
Some communities now require new homes to have built-in fire suppression systems. If your home is fitted with a wet-pipe fire suppression sprinkler system you should be aware of how it works, where the heads are located and what they look like. Do not tamper with or obstruct these extinguisher heads or expose them to open flame as they WILL go off. Have them inspected as required.
Your home should always have one fresh portable fire extinguisher for every 2000 square feet of living area in your home. It is recommended, at a minimum, you have one readily available in the kitchen and one in the garage.
*Water is not always a reliable extinguisher and can in some cases it can spread fires and/or make them worse. Especially for kitchen fires, or any grease or oil fueled fires, only use an approved extinguisher.
- Get an extinguisher here.
- Keep the heads free of dust and debris
- Do not obstruct or disable any part of a fire suppression system
- Report any leaks immediately
- Have the system inspected and maintained as required by your governing association or municipality.
- Make sure you know where the extinguishers are located. Note this in My Home.
- Replace them with fresh units when the indicator no longer is in the operable range.
- Use your retired extinguishers for training and practice
If you use an extinguisher, replace it immediately and clean up anything sprayed with it to avoid damage and corrosion.