FIRE in the House! Do you know what to Do?

Fire in the House! Do you know what to Do?

Fire in the home can happen at any time. From a meal catching fire on the stove to smoke alarms going off in the middle of the night. Do YOU know what to do if that happens? More importantly, do your children know what to do?

As a chimney sweep, my main concern is the safety of my customers. After all, customers are using an appliance (their fireplace, wood stove or wood stove insert) that operates at 700 – 900 degrees. More than hot enough to burn the house down.

Here are some fire facts:

  • One little match can burn down a house and kill people.
  • Smoke can kill you, so get away from it as quickly as possible. The air closest to the floor is the safest for you to breathe because smoke rises. Upstairs bedrooms are the worst places to be in case of fire.
  • Fire can take over a house in just a few minutes.
  • If a door is hot when you touch it – DO NOT OPEN IT because the fire could rush in. Go out a window instead.
  • When a house is on fire, PEOPLE are the most important.
  • If your clothes catch on fire. – STOP, DROP, and ROLL to smother the fire.

First and foremost – get to safety FAST. Second – call the fire department while simultaneously accounting for all of the people in the home. As hard as it may be, let the fire department save your pets. YOU are the most important to save.

As we go into the colder weather, we will close up our homes and awareness of home safety concerns become more important. Statistically, more fires happen in the winter, at night than at any other season or time. It’s a good idea to plan for at least 2 ways out of your home from all areas in your home. In the case of upstairs bedrooms, each should have an escape ladder (available in the big box stores ranging from $40 – $160). Children need to know how to remove the screens or push them out of the way.

Practice! Have your children use the escape ladder. Have them practice setting it and climbing down. For small children, you can go down first and coach them. Keep in mind their familiarity with the equipment will give them more confidence especially if an emergency occurs and for some reason, you are not there. Make sure to designate a meeting place outside of the home. This way, if you are separated, everyone knows where to check.

The more realistic the practice, the more it can build “muscle memory”. This may also include having an emergency pack in your vehicle including extra car key(s), blankets, water, flashlights sweaters, sleeping bags, emergency food, copies of your policies on a flash drive, etc.

Parents may want to consider using a “game approach” to the make the fire drills fun for small children while teaching a serious lesson. That way, if a real fire occurs the children are not as likely to panic, be confused or “freeze” and hide because they know what to do. Emphasize getting out FAST. Time your fire drills and create rewards for quick times. Make it a “family moment” that emphasizes the caring and love between you.

Two of the main causes of house fires are fireplaces and chimneys. They account for over 17,000 house fires per year. My expertise is the inspection, maintenance, and repair of wood-burning appliances. We handle them from sales and installation of new, to inspection, maintenance, and repair of old. It may include diagnosing negative house pressures to rebuilding chimney crown washes and about everything in between.

In accordance with the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) best practices, we operate according to the National Fire Protection Association, Code 211 Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents, and Solid Fuel-Burning Appliances (NFPA Code 211). It states, “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year…”. For some avid wood burners who go through more than 1 cord of wood per season, we recommend a second inspection/sweep per year.

Chimney Sweeps in Colorado are UNREGULATED. It is a CAVEAT EMPTOR (Let the Buyer Beware) state. There are CSIA certified sweeps, which means they have undergone a full day of testing both open and closed book exams. They are also require that sweeps maintain continuous education units (CEU’s) training of 48 units every 3 years or retesting in order to maintain certification. You can find certified sweeps and companies at www.csia.org.

Martha Neitz
CEO, Dr. SOOT, Chimney Sweep
CSIA #9330, Pikes Peak Regional Building Dept. D-1 Contractor