How safe is your home from fires?Statistics collected from fire departments statewide indicate that most residential fires could be prevented by careful behavior around five issues: cooking, open flames, heating, arson and smoking.
“Home” may be a mansion, a condo, an apartment, a mobile home or a rented room. To the fire department, it’s a “residential structure,” and it’s the most fire-prone type of building in Minnesota.
“Humans live there,” says State Fire Marshal Jerry Rosendahl. “Three-quarters of structure fires occur at home, and 82 percent of the time, it’s because of human behavior.”
Statistics collected from fire departments statewide indicate that most residential fires could be prevented by careful behavior around five issues: cooking, open flames, heating, arson and smoking.
Every year, cooking leads the pack by starting 50 percent of home fires, and two simple behavior changes would solve the problem:
· Stay in the kitchen while you’re cooking.
· Snuff out grease fires by putting a lid on the pan and turning off the heat.
Open flames are the second most common fire-starters, and again, a couple of behaviors would nearly eliminate the problem.
· Never leave candles burning unattended.
· Replace old-fashioned wick candles with battery-operated ones.
Fireplaces and space heaters originate most heating fires. These steps can help prevent fires:
· Maintain your fireplace with annual chimney cleanings and doors that prevent escaping sparks.
· Keep space heaters at least three feet from anything that can burn.
Arson is number four, and many think they can’t prevent it — but they’re not aware of the facts. Take these two precautions:
· Look around your yard and garage to find easy targets for arsonists; clean up debris and keep doors locked.
· If you know a child who seems too interested in fire, take action. Speak up; find help. You can start with the State Fire Marshal Division Youth Firesetter Interventionist at 651-201-7220.
Careless smoking is the fifth most common fire-starter, but the number-one cause of fire deaths in Minnesota. The reason is clear to investigators: cigarettes can smolder for hours before they ignite the surface they’re on, and residents may be asleep by the time a fire starts. Impairment by drugs or alcohol plays a role, too. These are two fire-safe behaviors:
· Extinguish smoking materials completely in an ashtray or water.
· If you allow smoking inside, watch for impairment in yourself and in others; be certain that smoking materials are not dropped or left half-extinguished.
Rosendahl says that awareness is the first step to behavior change — and once you know the rules, prevention is simple.
“It’s easy to keep a pan lid handy when you’re cooking, or ask someone to watch the stove while you leave the kitchen. It’s not difficult to pick up some battery-operated candles for those holiday decorations, or make sure the space heater is standing free-and-clear. What’s difficult is watching your home burn and then discovering you could have prevented it. ”
Families, teachers, firefighters and others can find fire prevention information on the State Fire Marshal website at fire.state.mn.us. Resources include fact sheets, newsletters, interactive games, fire-escape planning tools and more. For more data on fire causes, select MFIRS, Reporting and Statistics, and Fire in Minnesota.