Also on the statistical side of things, lighted tobacco products — mainly cigarettes — are the leading cause of residential fire deaths. Too often, a cigarette is forgotten on a couch cushion or chair and left alone to heat and burn the furniture. Another likely scenario is smoking in bed and falling asleep while the cigarette heats up the mattress and bedding.
Statistics tell us that cooking is the nation's leading cause of home fires and the resulting injuries. Most of us cook often enough to be very comfortable with cooking and doing some other task or tasks. This causes us to become complacent about cooking, forgetting the basic safety rules of not leaving cooking unattended.
Nationwide, alcohol consumption contributes to about 40 percent of all residential fire deaths. Alcohol can lead us into sleepiness, forgetting about any cooking or cigarettes left nearby.
Currently, we have a change of seasons going on, which brings about increased risks. More fireplaces, wood stoves and space heaters are being used to heat rooms or even homes. This gives fire more chances to break out in homes.
All of these items are common causes of fire in homes.
At the beginning of this article, we looked at how a fire started and a man died in his home. The home had no smoke alarms. It is important to have plenty of smoke alarms in the home, as 96 percent of us do. However, we need to make sure the smoke alarms are working, which means annual battery changing and monthly testing. If your smoke alarm is more than 10 years old, it should be replaced with a new one. You can tell how old your smoke alarms are by looking at the back of them. They should have a month and year that the unit was made if your alarm was manufactured since the year 2000. If you see no date on your smoke alarm, guess what? It is time to replace that smoke alarm.
Smoke alarms should be installed on every level in your home, including the basement. You should also have smoke alarms in bedrooms to give early warning to those who might be sleeping when a fire breaks out. Install smoke alarms on ceilings when possible. If that is not possible, install them high on the wall, but down at least one foot from where the wall meets the ceiling because a “dead air” space can be found in the corners.
While researching the above fire, I received notice of a fire that severely damaged a home in downtown Charleston, S.C. A working smoke alarm saved the four residents of that home.
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.