For three decades now, I have been telling people that fire safety is a lot of common sense, planning and practicing what to do in an emergency when you have little time to throw a plan together. These past few weeks, I add a few more people to my list of those who lack fire safety common sense.
First, we go to Chico, Calif., just one month ago. It seems that someone felt that a propane blowtorch would be a great way to get rid of cobwebs in his back yard. With his family in the house, he lit the torch and began setting fire to the cobwebs. The grass and plants were very dry so they too caught fire when the torch was placed too close to them. As he moved his way around the house, the fire started growing behind him. The uninsured family had to move out of the home due to the heat, smoke and fire damage.
Not to be outdone, a Houston, Texas, man was quite upset when he found out that his wife from whom he was separated was on a date with another man. He called the wife and said he was going to burn the house down. He filled up two gas cans and poured them inside the home and lit it on fire the next morning, after neighbors saw him pull up to the house after the wife and kids had left for the day. The man admitted to vandalizing the home, but didn't admit to the arson, stating he did not want to go back to prison.
If my memory serves me, last year a man noticed a bug on his couch. Assuming it was a bedbug, he decided the best way to get rid of them is with fire. He sprayed the entire couch with lighter fluid and lit it inside his home. As you might have guessed, it didn't turn out too well for him.
A friend of mine told me about a woman who saw a mouse in her house. She jammed newspaper inside the hole the mouse used to get behind the wall. Once she filled the hole with newspaper, she decided to “smoke the mouse out” by lighting the newspaper. Her day was ruined as well.
I remember a fire magazine reporting a story a few years back about some children in an apartment building playing with a lighter and some lighter fluid. A cat worked his way into the hallway so the kids sprayed it and lit it on fire. As luck would have it, the cat ran into the apartment of the kids who were playing with fire and hid under the bed. I don't think the parents were too happy to find out what their kids were doing in the hallway.
Before using fire, plan ahead about the hopeful outcome and the possible worst case scenarios that may unfold. If fire is still the plan, make sure you have a way to handle an unexpected fire should one break out. Make sure you have plenty of working smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and a home fire escape plan.
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.