How House Fires Start and Spread
A fire is one of the most devastating situations a homeowner will ever face. Understanding the causes and behavior of house fires will help you keep your home and family safe. Knowing what to do if you do face a house fire will help you recover and get life back to normal as quickly as possible.
What Causes House Fires?
Many house fires begin in the kitchen. All it takes is a drop of grease to splatter out of a hot pan onto a gas flame, and you have a dangerous kitchen fire. Other common causes of house fires include space heaters, and frayed or inadequate wiring. Careless smoking, especially around textiles, is also a significant cause of house fires.
Preventing a house fire takes vigilance, especially in situations involving open flames, such as smoking, burning candles, or using a barbeque. Avoid distraction while cooking to avoid accidental flame-ups and grease fires.
How Do Fires Spread?
Fire can spread through your house very quickly. It only takes a few seconds for a smoldering ash or spark to ignite a curtain or a couch cushion. In just minutes, that flame can engulf the entire room.
Fires spread by consuming fuel and oxygen. They travel faster through open areas than they do through closed doors and walls. HVAC ventilation systems offer a conduit through which smoke and flames can travel from room to room or floor to floor.
The best way to prevent a fire from spreading is to put it out if you can. Use a fire extinguisher aimed at the base of the flames. Do not use water, especially in the kitchen where the fire may be fueled by grease. Water will simply spread the flames, rather than extinguish them.
If the fire is too large to put out, evacuate the building immediately. Close doors and windows behind you to slow down the spread of the fire.
Never re-enter a burning building. The fire may have weakened the structural supports. If support beams or the roof collapses, you could be trapped inside.
What Should You Do After a House Fire?
As soon as emergency crews put out the fire, they will advise you on whether the house is safe to re-enter. Do not return to your home unless fire fighters have informed you that it is safe to do so.
Once the emergency crews leave, it is time to consider restoration options. The sooner you arrange for fire restoration, the better your chances of reducing the damage. According to RestorationMaster, corrosive byproducts of soot and ash can cause permanent damage in as little as 72 hours. They also advise that you avoid attempting to clean walls, carpet, or upholstery yourself. They have specialized cleaning methods designed to remove soot, ash, and smoke from textiles. Improper cleaning techniques could further damage your possessions.
Most fire damage restoration crews have a 24-hour emergency phone number and will have a team at your home within a few hours to do emergency clean-up. Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover this type of service. Speak to your insurance agent as soon as the fire is out to file your claim and begin restoration.