Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fire Safety

My Mom had a very “exciting” weekend.  We’ve had some rain during the week and the burn ban was officially lifted for the county, so she went to burn some papers in the outdoor chiminea.  What seemed like a pretty safe & harmless thing to do turned out to be not such a good idea.  The wind was blowing & an ember blew out of the chiminea into the surrounding grass.  Mom was right there so she went to stomp it out, but the little spark turned into a flame & she couldn’t keep up with it.  In just a few seconds the wind had blown the spark into a trail of flames and it was moving too quickly for her to extinguish.  She called the neighbors to tell them to get their hoses out to protect their yards from the quickly moving flames and had Wally call the fire department.  The fire department got on scene with three brush trucks and quickly extinguished the grass fire.   
Mom is still very upset, and I’m sure she won’t be thrilled to know that I’ve blogged about it, but this gives me the opportunity to remind everyone about fire safety. 
Even with my Mom right there, a small spark turned about two acres of grass into a crunchy & blackened area.  If she were not there or if the volunteer fire department weren’t available as quickly as they were, it could have been a LOT worse.
Regardless if there isn't a burn ban, always make sure that the weather is perfect (yes, PERFECT) for conducting a controlled burn – even if it’s in an outdoor chimney / fireplace.  Check to see that the relative humidity is at least 40% - the higher the better.  Make sure that there is very, very little or no wind.  Do you have a water source & hose available?  Have you made a fire break?  Have you removed all combustibles from the burn area?  And of course, don’t leave a fire unattended.  If it’s going to be a larger burn, have you notified your local fire department?  Some areas may require a permit for burns.
We just started up our wood stove this evening.  There are a lot of people that heat with wood, either using an outdoor wood furnace or an indoor wood stove.  Is your wood pile far enough from your house?  It may be more convenient to have ricks of wood stored right by the house but it’s definitely not safe.  Is your indoor wood pile too close to the stove?  Do you have the proper flooring under your stove?  Around the stove?  If a spark gets out, do you have the means to immediately snuff it out safely?  Make sure to clean out the flu or chimney once a year.
Do you have a fire extinguisher by the stove AND in every room?  This sounds a bit overkill, but what happens if you’re in the bedroom & the fire is just beyond the bedroom.  An extinguisher in the kitchen won’t do you any good if the fire is between you & the kitchen.
Sorry if I’m sounding like a crotchety old nag, but I hope that someone may read this and say, “Hey, I forgot about that”.  Paul & I joined our local volunteer fire department a few years ago and the training we received (and continue to receive) has been very helpful to us.  Of course, don’t think my crummy little blog is going to prepare you for a fire.  Talk to your local fire department or city and see if there are any fire safety classes available.  It is well worth your time if you’re able to attend one of the classes.
Keep warm & safe!

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