Tag Archives: fire

  • 5 Ways to Start a Fire with Water

    |10 COMMENT(S)

    5 Ways to Start a Fire with Water

    A crucial skill to have in practically any emergency situation is knowing how to build a fire. Whether you get lost overnight on a ski trip or your car runs out of gas as you pack up to leave your campsite, knowing how to build a fire and stay warm could save your life.

    So what’s the best way to build a fire? “Building” a fire typically comes in three stages: gather the materials, lay the fire, and then start it. Check out our Insight Article to learn “How to Build a Fire” using these three stages.

    However, in an emergency situation, there’s one other item that could actually help you start a fire that many overlook—water. It’s true. Grant Thompson, from thekingofrandom.com, shows five ways you can start a fire using water. Check it out:

    There you have it: five ways water can start a fire. Four of Thompson’s five fire starting methods show you how to use water as a magnifying glass to spark a fire, letting the power of the sun do all the work (or at least a lot of it!). But e But B ven if there’s cloud cover, you aren’t out of luck. With just a few supplies you can still ignite a fire in seconds.

    If you plan to use water to help you start a fire in an emergency, make sure to add the following supplies to your emergency gear so you are completely prepared.

    Method 5:

    • A light bulb. Make sure your bulb has been rinsed and cleaned according to Thompson’s directions. Cushion the bulb with fabric, grocery sacks, or other forms of padding to keep it from breaking and place it in a small container before you put it in your emergency supplies.
    • A balloon to cap off the end of the light bulb after you’ve filled it with water

    Method 4

    • Plastic wrap
    • A bowl

    Method 3

    • Plastic wrap
    • A picture frame

    *For this method, make sure you have a way to securely attach the plastic wrap to the frame and to heat water.

    Method 2

    • A juice bottle (that looks like a bubble) filled with water

    Method 1

    • Toilet paper
    • Toilet paper roll
    • Small chunks of sodium
    • Jar lid


    Caution! Playing with fires is dangerous so make sure to have proper safety gear (a fire extinguisher, goggles, and leather gloves) with you when practicing these new ways to start a fire. Also, make sure to light fires in a cleared area away from flammable objects or dry grass.

    These are some fun, unique methods you can use to start a fire, but don’t forget about the traditional methods as well. Adding items such as the Sparkie, the P-25 Strike Master or FiredUp! firestarters to your emergency supplies are reliable ways to get a roaring fire and warmth fast. (Or, taking a hint from Thompson, how about a magnifying glass?)





    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: fire starting, fire, emergency preparedness, skills

  • Learn, Don't Burn: Fire Safety Tips for the Home

    Prevent house fires with these fire safety tips

    “The United States has the highest fatality rate from fire in the industrial world. Why? Because we spend most of our money responding to fires, not preventing them.” This statement by David Osborne, Sr. Advisor to Vice President Al Gore, shows us where our priorities should lie in keeping our homes and families safe from fire: prevention!

    Here’s a list of fire safety tips you can use to prevent a house fire.

    Fire Safety in the Kitchen

    • Never leave cooking food unattended, especially when frying (overheated oil is the leading cause of kitchen fires).
    • Keep it clean—keep stove and nearby counter surfaces free of clutter, grease, and combustible items such as cans of baking spray, bug spray, hairspray, or air freshener.
    • Use your stove or oven timer; we humans can get easily distracted.
    • Wear close-fitting clothing when cooking; loose robes and billowing sleeves can ignite easily over the stove.

    If a pan fire erupts while you’re cooking, act quickly to prevent the fire from spreading. Here’s what you should do:


    1. Cover the pan with a lid or another pan turned upside down.
    2. Turn off the heat.
    3. If the first two don’t extinguish the fire, douse it with a fire-extinguisher or throw baking soda on it.

    And a few things you should never do with a kitchen fire:

    • DO NOTsubstitute flour or sugar for baking soda to douse the fire—1 cup of either has the explosive power of 2 sticks of dynamite!
    • DO NOT spray an oil fire with water; it will splatter the hot oil and spread the fire.
    • DO NOT run with a pan of oil; there’s too much danger of dripping, spilling, and spreading the fire or burning yourself.


    Fire Safety in the Laundry Room

    • Your dryer duct must vent to the outdoors, never to a room in your home, as it can contain a combination of combustible gases.
    • Avoid plastic duct work for your dryer; metal is much safer.
    • Keep duct and dryer lint-trap free of lint. Periodically a professional should help you clean between the dryer drum and the heating element.
    • Install a smoke detector in the area.


    Fireplaces and Candles

    • Never leave a fire unattended, whether it’s in your fireplace or a small candle sitting on the table.
    • Make certain your fireplace flue is open before lighting a fire.
    • Place candles or candle-warmers on a flat, non-combustible surface away from cloth, paper, cardboard, or even Styrofoam.
    • Use a sturdy hearth screen to keep logs from rolling out of a fireplace.
    • Perform regular checkups on your chimney, fireplace, or woodstove. All need annual cleaning and monthly inspections in case of obstructions or damage.
    • Never burn paper, trash, or green wood in fireplaces.
    • Extinguish the fire before you leave the area. Let the ashes cool completely before disposing of them in a metal container outside the home.


    Electronics and Appliances

    • Be a smart shopper! Buy appliances that have been evaluated and approved by a nationally-recognized laboratory such as UL (Underwriters Laboratories).
    • Check labels of appliances for manufacturer’s safety tips.
    • Replace all frayed wires and damaged plugs.
    • Use 3-prong plugs in 3-prong outlets, and 2-prong plugs in 2-prong outlets.
    • Keep portable space heaters 4 feet away from combustible surfaces and objects.
    • Ensure that your space heater has an automatic turn-off feature in case it should tip over.
    • Do not allow your space heater to overheat, and use in a well-ventilated room.
    • If your heater operates on kerosene, use only clear K-1 Kerosene, which is the cleanest, purest form of the fuel. It should be clear as water and show no “floaties” or contaminants. Do not substitute gasoline for kerosene.


    Smoke Alarms

    • Have several in your house, near the kitchen, laundry room, bedrooms, and any room that has a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
    • Use dual-sensor smoke alarms, as they use both photoelectric and ionization sensors, increasing the chance of catching a fire in its beginning stage.
    • Test smoke alarms once a month and replace yearly (except for those containing non-replaceable 10-year lithium batteries).
    • Never disable a smoke alarm, especially when cooking.
    • There are special smoke alarms for the disabled—Loud, unmistakable alarms for visually-impaired people, visual alarms or vibrating pads for the hearing-impaired, and alarms with outdoor strobe lights to alert neighbors of a problem in the home of a person with severe disabilities. Many alarms can be connected to an alarm service that alerts first responders to a need.


    If You Smoke

    • Smoke outdoors for the most safety.
    • Never smoke in bed or in a recliner where you might be tempted to snooze.
    • Stay alert. If you feel especially sleepy, whether due to medication, drinking, or sleep-deprivation, put out your cigarette/cigar.
    • Snuff cigarettes out completely in sand or water; don’t toss burning butts out your car window, into a trash can, or anywhere else.
    • Never smoke in an area where oxygen is being used. Even if the canister is turned off, the area is still more vulnerable to explosion.


    Getting Out Safely

    • Establish an evacuation plan. Draw up an escape plan for your home, with all exits marked. Establish two ways of exiting each room if possible, especially bedrooms.
    • Discuss escape plans with your family, and rehearse. Teach the stop, drop, and roll technique in case clothing catches fire.

    These practices may not stop every single house fire, but they’ll help prevent those that can be prevented—that are caused by human error or negligence—and help your family survive if a fire should erupt in spite of all your precautions.

    Have you had an experience with a house fire? Do you have any tips to add to the list?

    For more details on these tips, see the original articles links below:

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: house fires, National Burn Week, fire, Fire Preparedness, Fire Safety, emergency preparedness, Survival, preparedness

  • Smoke Detectors and Fire Alarms: What's the Difference?

     Smoke Detectors and Fire Alarms: What's the Difference?

    Surprisingly, the terms “Smoke Detector” and “Fire Alarm” aren’t interchangeable. Smoke Detectors and Fire Alarms actually have different functions and may be better suited for one environment over another. For example, a smoke detector may be better for a home while a fire alarm may be better for a business or school.

    According to the National Fire Protection Agency, almost two-thirds of home fire related deaths were caused because families did not have a “fire alert system” in their home or if they did, they were not in working order. So it’s important to select a “fire alert system” that will fulfill your individual needs and  help keep you safe in an emergency.

    Let’s talk about the differences between smoke detectors and fire alarms and how you can select and maintain each system in your home.

    Smoke Detectors (aka Smoke Alarms)

    A smoke detector is a smoke sensing device that sounds an alarm when an abundance of smoke particles are in the air. Some smoke alarms even come with flashing lights for those with hearing impairments. Smoke detectors can work as either an independent unit or a connected system throughout a home or building.

    If you’re wired independently, one smoke detector will sound in a given area of your home. But as a connected system, if one smoke alarm sounds in, say, your bedroom, the rest of the smoke detectors in your home will sound as well. It’s recommended to place a smoke detector on every level of your house—preferably near sleeping areas.

    There are three types of smoke detectors you can choose from. Howstuffworks.com gives an excellent explanation of how each of these detectors work:

    • Photoelectric: Uses a light beam and sensor to detect smoke. As smoke travels into a compartment on the detector, that smoke covers the light beam, causing the detector to sound. Better for smoky fires (ex. a mattress or cloth fire).
    • Ionization: Uses a chamber to detect an abundance of smoke particles in the air and the accelerated movement of smoke particles signaling an increase of smoke in a room.  According to howstuffworks, “This type of smoke detector is more common because it is inexpensive and better at detecting the smaller amounts of smoke produced by flaming fires.”
    • Dual Sensor: Contains both Photoelectric and Ionization smoke sensors

    Smoke detectors are considered the cheapest option to keep your family safe in case of a fire in your home and range from $6 to $50.

    Fire Alarms

    A fire alarm system can sense heat as well as do everything a smoke detector can. Depending on the type of fire alarm you get and the money you’re willing to pay, a fire alarm can do much more than just signal that there’s a fire in the house.

    There are several options to choose from that can help you cater to your household. Some optional features  of a fire alarm include:

    • Fire Alarm Control Panel – connects the central monitoring station and all other parts of the system together—like the motherboard of a computer.
    • Sprinkler System—automatically activates when smoke particles reach high levels, protects you and property from excessive fire damage (but may cause some water damage as well).
    • Warning Systems—alarms, plus visual elements like strobe lights or flashing lights for those who are hearing impaired.
    • Fire Alarm Box-a pull down mechanism placed in a glass box that sends out a fire alert to local authorities. Similar to what you see in schools or office buildings.
    • Transmitter Devices—optional for elderly, can be worn around neck or as a wristband to signal for help.

    Note: Not all fire alarm systems offer all features

    Installing a fire alarm in your home is more difficult than putting in a smoke detector. Often, service professionals or fire alarm technicians install them. Some systems can be installed without professional help, but you’ll need to be somewhat familiar with electrical engineering to some extent.

    The benefit of a fire alarm over a smoke detector is the extra layer of protection you receive. Since fire alarms connect to local authorities, you can have a fast response if a fire starts in your home. They also have a longer lifespan than smoke detectors if regularly maintained.


    Smoke Detectors

    • Test the detector monthly.
    • Replace batteries once a year (if you have a detector that uses a lithium battery do not replace the battery, but replace the whole detector according to the manufacturer’s instructions).
    • Replace the detector every 8-10 years.
    • If your detector is hardwired to your electrical system, you should have a back-up battery in it as well. Replace the back-up battery once a year.

    Fire Alarms

    According to the Electrical Construction and Maintenance website, maintenance of a fire alarm is largely determined by the age of the system. Systems five years old and under do not have a lot of problems, but systems ranging from 10-20 years may. Depending  on the quality and frequency of the maintenance. . You’ll want to do yearly inspections to make sure your system is functioning properly, even in the first five years.

    Fire alarm maintenance is best performed by a trained technician who has knowledge of how fire alarm systems work. Generally, fire alarm maintenance requires testing each component.. Technicians generally test:

    • The audible components—horn, siren, bell
    • The visual components—flashing lights
    • The sensors—smoke and fire sensors, sprinkler system
    • The signaling system—ability to signal the fire department and local authorities of fire
    • The battery—checking  for corrosion

    For an in depth look at the maintenance service technicians perform on fire alarm systems, check out the article, “Fire Alarm System Testing, Inspection, and Maintenance” from the Electrical Construction and Maintenance website


    So which system would you prefer in your home? Fire Alarms or Smoke Detectors?








    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: burn week, fire, emergency preparedness supplies, emergency preparedness

  • How to Prevent a Car Fire

    How to Prevent a Car Fire

    While driving on the freeway a couple of months ago, traffic was at a standstill. Now, this was not your typical 5 p.m. commuter traffic...Drivers had slowed down to look at a car sitting on the side of the road with 5 foot flames raging from its open hood.

    A motor vehicle fire is one of the most dangerous types of fires you can encounter. However, FEMA believes that “the dangers of motor vehicle fires are often overlooked. Each year, these fires kill over 300 people and injure 1,250 more.”

    Motor vehicle fires can cause toxic gases like carbon monoxide and other hazardous substances to emit from the vehicle which, if inhaled, can cause serious health problems. Flying debris and explosions are also possible along with severe or fatal burn injuries. Flames from a car fire can even shoot out distances of ten feet or more.

    Motor Vehicle Fire Safety

    When I witnessed that car fire, I noticed a couple of things the driver did to keep himself safe. Many of the things he did matched up with the safety suggestions from FEMA and the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA).

    Here’s what he did—and what you can do, too, if you ever experience a car fire:

    • He pulled over into the breakdown section of the freeway (you can also pull into a rest stop).
    • He got out of the vehicle and was standing far away from it (the NFPA suggests to stand 100 ft. away from the vehicle).
    • He called 9-1-1 and told them the location of the fire.
    • He didn’t have any of his belongings with him. He didn’t try to go back to the car to retrieve any items left there.

    Some additional things you can do to stay safe:

    • DON’T open the hood or trunk of the car if you suspect the fire to be coming from there (our friend on the side of the road didn’t follow that guideline . . .). Opening them let’s air in and enlarges the flame. Doing this could injure you.
    • Once you pull over, turn off the engine.
    • If you have a fire extinguisher in your car, make sure it’s for use on class B (a fire fueled by flammable liquids) or class C (a fire caused by energized electrical objects or circuits) fires.
    • Make sure to use your fire extinguisher a safe distance away (5-10 feet) from the flames so you don’t get hurt.

    Preventing Motor Vehicle Fires

    In a study done by the NFPA, they found that “collisions and overturns were factors in only 4% of highway vehicle fires, [but] these incidents accounted for three of every five (60%) automobile fire deaths” from 2006-2010. The fire I witnessed started because of a collision, but motor vehicle fires can happen in other ways such as improper car maintenance. To avoid maintenance-related fires:

    1. Have your car serviced regularly. You should always do this, but especially if you notice leaks, or if there’s a change in the way it runs.

    2. Take notice of warning signs that your car needs maintenance to avoid fires include:

    • Cracked or loose wiring
    •  Electrical problems
    • Fuse blows (more than once)
    • Oil cap not on securely
    • Rapid changes in fuel level or fluid level, or engine temperature

    3. Never transport gasoline inside the car itself where passengers sit. If you transport gasoline in your car, make sure it is in a sealed canister and keep a window cracked for ventilation.


    Keep yourself safe on the road this year by following these tips. And while you’re at it, consider buying or making a Car emergency Kit in case of an issue that leaves you stranded on the road.

    What else would you suggest doing to protect yourself from a car fire? Let us know in the comments.






    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: burn week, fire, Fire Safety, emergency preparedness

  • Preventing and Extinguishing Kitchen Fires

    |1 COMMENT(S)

    Preventing and Extinguishing Kitchen Fires

    Could simply cooking dinner catch your home on fire?

    The fact is, 43% of all home fires begin in the kitchen. In 2011, there were 156,300 kitchen-based fires reported in the United States, causing 470 deaths, 5,390 injuries, and a billion dollars in property damage. This is not a statistic that anyone wants to be included in, so what can you do to avoid burning more than the roast or the toast?

    Types of Kitchen Fires

    Kitchen fires fall into three general categories:

    • Oil or grease fires (aka pan fires)
    • Electrical and appliance fires
    • Fires caused by flammable items being too close to a heat source


    Preventing Kitchen Fires

    Most kitchen fires can be prevented with careful attention to a few simple precautions. Here are a few tips for preventing each type of fire.

    Oil or grease fires

    • Never put hot grease in a garbage can. Keep a metal or glass container near your stove to pour used drippings or grease in to cool before throwing it away.
    • Do not overheat any fat or oil for frying. Use a thermometer to gauge the temperature. Also, it’s helpful to know the smoke point and flashpoint of the oil you’re using, as they differ.

    Electrical and appliance fires

    • Do not use extension cords for appliances—toasters, toaster ovens, microwaves, mixers, etc. They are not always as safe as plugging the actual cord into a proper outlet, and may not be equipped to carry the voltage your appliance requires.
    • Clean your toaster regularly, being sure to get old, dry bread crumbs out. Many toasters have a slip-out tray underneath to catch these—but also turn the toaster upside down to be sure you get as many out as you can.

    Flammable object fires

    • Wear clothing and sleeves that are close fitting when cooking. It’s too easy for loose clothing to drift close to a burner and ignite. Roll or push sleeves up when possible.
    • If you have frayed or worn appliance cords or plugs, have them replaced.
    • Keep small appliances such as toasters and mixers unplugged when not in use.
    • Keep your stovetop and counter clean of grease, food, and clutter. Keep spray cans such as vegetable baking spray and air freshener safely away from the cooking area.
    • Keep flammable objects—hot pads, mitts, towels, dishcloths, aprons, recipe books or cards, and paper towels—away from heat sources.

    Other tips for preventing kitchen fires

    • Stay in the kitchen while food is cooking! Make it a practice to turn off all burners if you have to leave the kitchen even for a “second.”
    • When baking, use a timer; it’s easy to forget that sheet of cookies when you’ve been baking several or multitasking.
    • Keep small children away from the stove and oven when anything is cooking. Always turn pot handles so that they don’t extend out where little ones can grab them and pull hot foods down on themselves. Some burner controls, especially those on the front of the stove, can be secured so that small hands can’t turn them on. (Check with your hardware store.)


    Extinguishing Kitchen Fires

    Oil and Grease Fires

    • Put a lid (or an upside down pan) over the pan to smother the fire and deprive it of oxygen. Turn off the heat source.

    - If that doesn’t do the trick, use a dry chemical fire extinguisher (not a water-based one).

    -  If you don’t have an extinguisher, tear the top off a box of baking soda and carefully dump the contents on the fire. Salt also works. DO NOT substitute flour, sugar, or  baking powder! They can explode and make the fire much worse. According to the Ohio Fire Safety Board, one cup of flour or sugar potentially has the explosive  power of two sticks of dynamite!

    • Never put water on a grease or oil fire—it will splatter and spread.
    • Don’t run with a burning pan; there’s too much danger of dripping and spreading the fire or burning yourself.
    • If you can’t put out the fire very quickly, yell and alert other people in the house to get out. Be sure you have an unobstructed path to an exit. Get out first, then call 911 if necessary.

    Electrical and appliance fires

    • If your oven—or something in it, such as the element—catches fire, close the oven door and turn off the heat source. If it doesn’t go out in a short time, use a dry chemical fire extinguisher on it, or just call 911. Do not use water.
    • If a fire erupts in your microwave, keep the oven door shut and turn off the microwave. Unplug it—but only if you can do so safely.
    • Never blow on flames or fan them with a towel or apron! That feeds oxygen to the fire, makes it worse, and can cause it to spread.
    • If an appliance has caused a fire or burned at all because of a fire, replace it. Do not try to use it again.

    DO NOT immerse a burning appliance in water! Use a dry chemical fire extinguisher, or get out of the house and call 911. If you safely can, unplug the appliance or turn off the breaker that cuts all power to the kitchen.

    Flammable Object Fires

    • If a small object such as a hot pad or a dishcloth catches fire, you can use a pair of tongs to drop it into the sink and douse it with water. If it’s a larger object such as a tablecloth, use a fire extinguisher.
    • If a person’s clothing catches fire, employ the “stop, drop and roll” technique. You may be able to smother the fire with a fire blanket, a rug, a heavy towel or coat. Douse it with water. Call 911.
    • Know how to use your fire extinguisher and fire blanket ahead of time. Study manufacturer’s instructions. A fire blanket is a safety device, usually made of fiberglass or other synthetic material, used to extinguish small fires such as pan fires by smothering the fire and depriving it of oxygen. Keep one in a handy place in the kitchen. Take a moment to watch this short video:

    Though most kitchen fires are preventable, when they do happen we can be prepared by having a good supply of baking soda on hand for pan fires, by having a kitchen-sized fire extinguisher and knowing how to use it, by having a fire blanket on hand to smother difficult fires, and by keeping [BurnFree Pain Relieving Gel] on hand for minor burns.

    From your experience, what other tips on kitchen fires would you offer?








    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Emergency Fires, burn week, fire, Fire Preparedness, emergency preparedness

  • California Wildfires Spread Due to Drought Conditions

    Drought conditions help spread wildfires across California

    Wildfires swept through Central and Coastal California earlier this week and the severe drought conditions aren’t helping this prolonged fire season.

    CBS News reported fires engulfing buildings, burning homes, climbing mountainsides, and forcing evacuations across the state.

    "The lack of rain and the unseasonably dry conditions . . . make fire conditions just as bad as in the middle of fire season," said Scott Bahrenfuss of the Rio Vista Fire Department.

    On Kimball Island, what began as a 10-foot brush fire sparked into a 40-acre wildfire as intense wind speeds picked up. In Southern California, a 2-acre fire damaged two homes, two mobile homes, three motor homes, 40 vehicles, and roughly a dozen structures.

    Other areas left fire fighters scrambling to fight off the flames encroaching on some homes, while others were left to burn. As the fires spread, many residents were forced to abandon their homes, including the 15 people on Kimball Island.

    Check out CBS News’ newscast:

    With the extremely arid conditions in California, people should be extra careful with how they use fire. Simple actions such as flicking a cigarette butt out a car window or lighting a small campfire could start a rapid wildfire the sparks hit dry grass.

    To read more about the fires in Southern California, check out the following articles:

    What would you do if you were caught in a wildfire? Would you be prepared to bug out right away?

    Check out the articles below to make sure you’re prepared:

    Make and Practice a Fire Escape Plan

    Fire Season Safety and Preparedness Tips


    Video courtesy of CBS News

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: drought, California Wildfire, fire, natural disaster, emergency preparedness, Survival, preparedness

  • Tips for Preventing Holiday Fires in Your Home

    Prevent holiday fires in your home

    Inevitably at this time of year, we see headlines about holiday fires as this season of celebration involves heavy traffic, excessive electricity use, and extreme weather. The latest disaster comes from my corner of the country, where a dog alerted a family to a Christmas tree fire that claimed $85,000 worth of damage to their home.

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology reports that Christmas tree fires are relatively rare (right around 210 per year), but that fatalities associated with those fires are disproportionately high. In other words, the chance of a tree fire in your home may be low, but if it happens, you have a greater chance of dying. Yikes. And if you really want to give yourself a scare, watch the video on their site showing a dry Christmas tree catching fire and consuming a whole room in less than a minute.


    Live trees aren’t the only culprits. Pre-lit artificial trees, candles, and home baking all increase the chance of a home fire during the holidays, so be particularly careful this year.

    Both FEMA and the National Fire Prevention Association provide helpful tip lists for avoiding holiday fires in your home. You can also check out our blog post to Make a Fire Escape Plan and download this pdf on home fire safety.


    The only thing we want burning this season is the Yule log!



    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: fire, Fire Safety, tips, preparedness, holidays