You are here

Important Reminders: Preventing House Fires

November 6, 2019


Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Taylor: Today we're talking about the important reminders of preventing house fires. Hello, I'm Amy Taylor and welcome to Farm and Family. Today, we're speaking with Sylvia Clark, Mississippi State University Extension Service Associate in Family and Consumer Sciences. Sylvia, I hear about fire deaths in Mississippi every year. What's the most common cause of house fires?

Sylvia Clark: Surprisingly, almost 50% of all home fires are started by cooking activities. If you're cooking anything with oil, you should always have a lid near your stove, so that if anything catches on fire, you can smother that fire with a lid. And do not ever try to pick up a flaming pan of hot oil, you'll get burned and probably set more things on fire trying to get it outside. Don't leave your cooking unattended. A lot of times, you'll go just for a few minutes to do something else and you'll come back and things have gotten out of hand.

Sylvia Clark: The second thing are the heating fires. We have to be very careful with space heaters and not put them close to anything that's flammable. If you have one in the bedroom, make sure it's far enough away from the bed and not near any clothing. And then fireplaces can have smoldering embers. Fireplaces have buildup of creosote, so it's important if you're using your fireplace for the first time, to have it cleaned or at least checked and make sure everything is in working order.

Sylvia Clark: Another thing is electrical malfunction. We can have frayed wires with most any appliance or Christmas decorations, when you're putting those out, be sure to check and do not use anything that has frayed wires and electric blankets, it's probably not a good idea to use those. And be sure you know how to flip your breaker in your home; know how many volts that breaker will carry and don't overload it. But if a breaker flips on its own, you know that something is causing that. So have it checked out but do know yourself how to flip a breaker because if you have an electrical fire, you will need to flip your breaker.

Amy Taylor: And don't ever pour water on an electrical fire.

Sylvia Clark: That's right. That's right.

Amy Taylor: Water and electricity don't mix.

Sylvia Clark: Do not mix, that's right. Good thinking, Amy.

Amy Taylor: So we must make plans for dealing with the home fire. What are some steps the family should take?

Sylvia Clark: Well, we must educate all the members of the family about the dangers of fire, and especially the children. We have been warning children about not playing with matches or a lighter that they might find for generations. But the more potent danger these days is leaving that candle unattended or in the reach of children because it can easily tip over and very easily you would have a fire. And then making sure that you have smoke detectors installed. You need the kind that measure ionization smoke and photoelectric smoke.

Sylvia Clark: The ionization smoke alarms are more responsive to flaming fires, while the photoelectric smoke alarms are generally designed to be responsive to fires that smolder and these are very, very dangerous because a smoldering fire can start in your insulation, maybe from a frayed wire or something and it can be there for a long time. And if your smoldering fire is in any kind of furniture or carpeting that has formaldehyde in it, it can put out fumes that are very deadly. And these smoke detectors do cost a little bit more, but it's worth it.

Sylvia Clark: And last, all family members must know that fires are fast, hot and dark and that the effects of the fire and the fumes can be very deadly. And sometimes you may have to get down and crawl out, get under the smoke because smoke rises and get down where the air is a little more clear and you need to teach your children that and you also need to teach your children to be familiar with your home. Some sites said to even blindfold them; put on a little blindfold and let them figure out how to get to the door.

Sylvia Clark: It's important to know at least two ways out of every room, to know to check your door if your door is closed. You know, make sure it's not warm to the touch and if you do have to stay in your room to put something under the door to keep the smoke from coming in where you are. Know where to meet outside. Have a predetermined spot outside that all family members know where everyone will go and once outside, stay outside. Don't go back in for anything but if you have financial papers that you want to be sure you can keep or sentimental things, buy one of those fireproof boxes and put everything in so that you can feel okay to just get out of a house if you have a fire.

Amy Taylor: Today, we've been speaking with Sylvia Clark, an Associate in Family and Consumer Sciences. I'm Amy Taylor and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Select Your County Office