Home & Garden

Home checklist: Fire Prevention Week offers lessons for fire-safe homes

Simple everyday items around your home hold the potential for disaster. Candles, home appliances, extension cords – they may not sound like trouble but they’re linked to the most common causes of home fires.

It’s National Fire Prevention Week, a good time to review your home’s safety. DIY experts at The Family Handyman magazine compiled this list of the seven most common causes of home fires and how to prevent them.

•  Cooking fires: Kitchen fires can start in seconds. Never leave the kitchen while something is cooking on the stove. Make sure everyone in your home knows that rule. Post a note close to the stove until they get the message.

• Portable heaters: Space heaters are notorious for catching combustible fabrics or other materials on fire. Establish a designated “space heater zone” in rooms where they are used. That zone should be clear of drapes, bedding and other flammable fabrics or items such as newspapers. books or magazines.

• Electrical equipment: According to the U.S. Fire Administration, about half of all home fires can be traced to electrical wiring. That adds up to more than 26,000 fires and $1 billion in losses every year. Overloaded extension cords, bad connectors and other careless uses of electrical devices can spark flames. Keep extension cords away from rugs. If there’s a problem, call an electrician.

• Appliances: Give your appliances some room to work. Don’t pile up stuff next to a stove or water heater. Mark a “combustible free” zone at least 4 feet away from your water heater with masking tape. That will serve as a reminder to your family that nothing should be stored close to the water heater.

• Smoking: The No. 1 cause of home fire deaths in the U.S. is smoking, particularly in bed. If there’s a smoker in your house, limit them to smoking only outside. If necessary, post “No Smoking” signs indoors to make your point clear.

• Candles: People love their smell and ambiance, but many home fires can be traced to a simple candle left alone. Use tip-proof containers, burn candles only when you are awake and keep candles away from combustibles such as drapes, plants and tablecloths. Never leave a candle burning in an unattended room. Keep candles away from children.

• Children: Playing with fire can be disastrous. Matches, lighters and grill or fireplace igniters stored within reach of children are the greatest hazards. Don’t let them be tempted. Store lighters and matches up high, well out of kids’ reach.

For more tips, click on www.familyhandyman.com.

– Debbie Arrington