3 Common, Preventable House Fires

Tis the Season of Fire

House FireThanks to California routinely catching fire in the summer months, a lot of people think of Summer as fire season. The reality is that most fires – especially house fires – occur during the winter. Why? Well, it’s actually obvious once you think about it. The cold weather that makes you think fires are unlikely leads to the causes of most house fires. Just this year, we’ve had several easily preventable fires already. I’ll discuss them here, though in the interest of privacy, no names will be provided.

1. Chimney Fire

You’re supposed to have fires in chimneys, right? Well, yes, but it’s supposed to be the wood in the chimney that burns. When the chimney itself is catching fire, something’s gone wrong.

“But a chimney is made of stone,” I hear you say. “How can it catch fire?”

Creosote. No, not the fat guy from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, but a natural byproduct of burning organic materials. You see, chimneys are meant to not just heat your house, but expel the byproducts of the fire out of your house. The heat warms the air and causes the ash, smoke, and other gases to rise safely out of your house where they won’t choke you. Over time, however, these substances leave a tar-like residue on the inside of your chimney called creosote. This substances is highly flammable and if you let too much build up, it could catch fire.

That’s what happened in the case of one of our customers.  They hadn’t inspected and cleaned the chimney for some time. They looked up the chimney and thought it looked clean enough, so they started a fire. But they couldn’t see the creosote buildup and it caught fire.

Chimney fires can do serious damage to your home, so you want to make sure your chimney has been properly cleaned. For more information about chimney fires, the Chimney Safety Institute of America has more information.

2. Space Heater

space heater fireSpace heaters are the number one cause of house fires in the winter. We use them because they save us a little money on the gas bill for heating our houses. This is fine, but we have to be careful – there are so many ways for a space heater to start fires. If you leave something too close to it, the heat can cause it to catch fire. A blanket falling on top of one is a common cause.

In this particular case, the space heater ignited due to bad wiring. As things age, they break down. This is a basic aspect of the universe. If space heaters get old, the wiring insulation wears down.  You might damage it while moving it around. However it happens, if the wires go bad, they can generate sparks inside the machine that can ignite it. Once it catches fire, the fire can spread to other areas of your house.

3. Old Wiring

Space heaters aren’t the only sources of bad wiring. What happens to the wiring in space heaters happens to everything eventually. In a recent case, an older gentleman was doing some woodworking in his garage. He turned on the heater to dry the paint, then went inside to watch tv while he waited. What he didn’t know was that the wiring in his garage heater had gone bad. It overheated and caught fire. Fortunately, a neighbor saw the fire and reported  it before it did serious damage.

How to Prevent Fires

Each of these fires were small and quickly controlled. This is usually how it goes. As long as you’re careful, most house fires will do minimal damage to your home. Even so, any damage is a hassle to repair and you’re better off preventing a fire if you can. Fire safety is important to avoid these situations. We’ve already talked about fire safety tips before as well as other causes of house fires, but I’d like to add a little more.

Before you start any fires in your chimney this year, call in a professional chimney cleaner and have them look into it. Creosote can be difficult to spot if you don’t know what you’re looking for, so even if you inspect it yourself, you might not see the danger. If you’ve got an old home, make sure to have an electrician check up on your wiring. If it’s gone or going bad, it’s much cheaper and easier to replace the wiring than it is to repair the damage caused by a fire.

For space heaters, we said in the previous article that you should never leave a space heater alone while it’s running and this is true. If it catches fire, it’s a simple matter to unplug it and then douse it with the appropriate sort of fire extinguisher. Then you’re only out the cost of buying a new space heater. But on the other hand, if your space heater is making strange noises, don’t ignore those. They could be warning signs of the wiring going bad. You can have an electrician check on that, too. It might be something easily repaired. If not, replacing your space heater is better than risking a fire.

We Can Help

Alpine Cleaning and Restoration SpecialistsWhile we hope you don’t need our help, should anything go wrong, we are there for you. Our fire restoration experts know their business. We’ve been doing this for a long time and we know how to restore your home and possessions from both fire and smoke damage. We can probably save more than you’d expect! So, if you have any need, give us a call and see how we can help you out.