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Fire Prevention and Safety

Fire is the conspicuous and fascinating manifestation of a vigorous chemical reaction commonly used for heating, cooking, illumination, manufacturing and transportation. Fire requires: heat, fuel and air. Fire produces: heat, light and smoke. Heat is not only required for fire, it’s also a product of fire. Once a fire begins, a heat chain-reaction sustains the fire as long as fuel and air are available.

Fire is also a dangerous phenomenon that can destroy property, blister and char flesh as well as choke breathing. It’s far more prudent to prevent or escape a fire than it is to treat the burns and smoke inhalation resulting from exposure to a fire and the proximate smoke.

Because of the ubiquitous presence of air, the most fundamental fire prevention simply prevents fuel and heat contiguity. Some common sources of heat: matches, lighters, cigarettes, lightning, cook stoves, ovens, fireplace, space heaters, furnace, dryers, water heaters, light bulbs, electrical outlets, overloaded or frayed extension cords, toasters, vehicle exhaust, coffee makers any open flame or hot object.

Fuels are divided into five categories: Class A: typical combustibles (wood, paper or cloth); Class B: flammable liquids (gasoline, grease, oil or organic solvents); Class C: energized electrical equipment (wire, motors or appliances); Class D: metals (magnesium or aluminum); and, Class K: hot cooking oils.

Fires can be extinguished by removing or shutting off the fuel source; cooling the heat by dousing with water; and, denying air or smothering it. Each type of fuel has a specialized portable extinguisher: Class A: water or dry chemical (monoammonium phosphate); Class B: foam (Aqueous Film Forming Foam), dry chemical (sodium bicarbonate or monoammonium phosphate) or CO2 (carbon dioxide); Class C: dry chemical (potassium bicarbonate or monoammonium phosphate) or CO2 (carbon dioxide); Class D: dry powder (graphite or sodium carbonate); and, Class K: wet agent (potassium acetate).

Class ABC fire extinguishers are the most common and useful type. They contain a dry chemical (monoammonium phosphate) that can be used on ordinary combustible (Class A), flammable liquid (Class B) and electrical fires (Class C).

The thick, toxic, suffocating smoke of a structure fire has killed far more people than the heat of a fire ever has and a smoke detector is the single most important early warning device for a residential fire. Smoke rises and smoke detectors should be located close to the ceiling on each floor and near any bedrooms in your house. Smoke detectors should be tested every month and the batteries should be replaced twice a year – when time changes in Spring and Fall.

Smoke detector testing not only ensures it works properly it also familiarizes those nearby with the noise it makes upon detecting smoke. If you hear a smoke detector activate or if you see smoke or fire in a building or house, don’t hide, get low and crawl to an exit. Feel closed doors for heat before opening them. Warn others of the fire and smoke or let them know if you can’t get out or are trapped. Close doors behind you as you leave to prevent the fire and smoke from spreading and never go back into a burning building.

Always look for exits and stairs when entering and moving through a building or house so that you know at least two ways out. Remember, windows will almost always provide an exit. Develop an escape plan for everyone and from every room in your house. Have a meeting place for your family at a safe location outside your house and call for help from the meeting place.

Sprinklers are probably the single most important modern innovation to prevent the loss of life and protect property from fire. Sprinklers are usually located high in a room and are connected to a water source with stiff, sturdy iron pipes. Sprinklers are valves that open when exposed to heat spraying water on the burning material, thereby cooling and extinguishing the fire.

Firefighters wear specialized clothes and gear to protect themselves from fire, smoke and heat when entering a burning building. Typical equipment includes a heavy coat, hood and pants, boots, a distinctive hard hat and gloves. Firefighters also wear a mask that covers their entire face and is connected to a high-pressure air cylinder so they can breathe fresh air and prevent eye irritation in the thick, toxic, suffocating smoke.

Firefighters also carry an axe, halligan bar and pike pole for breaking windows, opening doors and tearing holes in walls so they can get to the fire and rescue people. They have hoses full of pressurized water to spray on, cool and extinguish fire as well as big fans to push smoke out of the building.

Don’t play with matches or lighters. Let an adult know if you see someone playing with matches or a lighter or if you see fire or smoke. If you or your clothes catch fire: stop, drop and roll to smother the fire and deny it air. When the flames have been extinguished, cool the burn with water, cover the burn with clean, dry dressings and bandages, then go to the hospital as soon as possible for additional treatment.

Fire Safety in Treys:

Fire requires: heat, fuel and air.

Fire produces: heat, light and smoke.

Common fuels: Class A (normal combustibles), Class B (flammable liquids) and Class C (energized electrical equipment).

Basic residential fire safety includes: smoke detector, escape plan and meeting place.

Exit a burning building: get low, get out and stay out.

If you or your clothes catch fire: stop, drop and roll.