Haven’t been posting because we recently had our own house fire. It was small and contained, but nonetheless, a fire. We were very lucky that we were home and awake.
It was around 8:30 at night, and smoke began filling the house.
Erik, my husband, and I were asking each other – are you cooking? did you leave something on somewhere? – and we’re running around trying to find the source of the fire. The smoke is getting thicker, the smell is awful, he’s feeling the walls for heat, I run into the pantry to grab this little fire extinguisher, the smoke is getting worse, and I realize ‘We’re not professionally trained to handle a fire…’ and call 911.
We were told by the 911 operator to evacuate. I leashed our dog, Lovey, and grabbed my camera and cell phone. Just two weeks earlier, I had taken pictures of EVERYTHING in the house to begin a home inventory update. Of course, I hadn’t downloaded a single shot. Everything was put in my purse, I took a flashlight and ran out telling Erik I was going to steer the first responders to our house.
It’s impossible to find our house. We live down a dirt road, and there is no address visible anywhere. As Lovey and I ran down our steep driveway, down the road, I thought of WhatHappensNow and the item I had posted for at least two weeks about making sure your address is clear from the road so first responders can find you.
And I was running to the end of the drive, frantically waving a flashlight so fire and police would know where to go.
Lesson #1: Make sure your address is visible!
More lessons to come ….
Yesterday we posted some info from the US Fire Administration and Safe Kids USA on fire safety around the holidays. Today we’re looking at what they have to say about trimming the Christmas tree:
If you decorate a tree, Safe Kids USA and the USFA recommend these precautions:
- Never leave a lighted Christmas tree or other decorative lighting display unattended.
- Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections, and broken sockets.
- Do not overload extension cords or outlets and do not run an electrical cord under a rug.
- Natural Christmas trees always involve some risk of fire. To minimize this risk, get a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times.
- Do not put a live tree within three feet of a fireplace, space heater, radiator, or heat vent.
- Do not burn Christmas tree branches, treated wood, or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.
Decorate with children in mind:
- Do not put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on the lower branches where small children can reach them.
- Trim protruding branches at or below a child’s eye level
- Keep lights out of reach.
Safe Kids USA offers these tips to prevent poisoning (take note of the berries for pets as well as kids!)
- Keep alcohol (including baking extracts) out of reach
- Do not leave alcoholic drinks unattended.
- Color additives used in fireplace fires are a toxic product and should be stored out of reach.
- Artificial snow can be harmful if inhaled, so use it in a well-vented space.
- Mistletoe berries, Holly Berry and Jerusalem Cherry can be poisonous. If they are used in decorating, make sure children and pets cannot reach it.
- In a poison emergency, call the national Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.
Here’s a stat that wakes you up: the top four days for candle fires are around Christmas and New Years, according to a release from the US Fire Administration. They’ve joined with Safe Kids USA to talk about fire safety and kids this season.
They also say that candles started over 15,000 house fires in the US in 2005. That would probably wipe out a good portion of your neighborhood.
Also – from their release – Wintertime is the most dangerous time of the year for injuries and deaths from fire. Each year, approximately 450 children ages 14 and under die in residential fires; children under the age of 5 are at the greatest risk.
Here are their tips:
- Battery-operated flameless candles are an alternative that does not have a fire risk.
- Decorative lighting should be labeled with the seal of an independent testing lab and should only be used outdoors if it’s labeled for outdoor use.
And some tips from Suzanne Morton, Safe Kids USA fire and burn safety program manager:
- Never, never leave lit candles unattended
- Don’t put candles on a tree or a natural wreath, or near curtains or drapes
- Keep matches and lighters locked out of reach of children
Sad news in Chicago – the 134-year-old Holy Name Cathedral caught fire early this morning. CNN reports that it took 2.5 hours to put the fire out, and there is extensive damage to the roof and attic (where it is believed to have started) as well as enormous water damage inside. Thankfully no one died.
How the fire began is a mystery – so there will be an investigation.
We’ve often wondered what kind of questions a person is asked if their house (or church….) burns down, so we went to the experts.
Read what firemen and arson investigators told us were common after-the-fire questions.
After a long hiatus the WhatHappensNow.com blog is back with a new look and great new functionality. Woo-hoo! Thank you for your patience and welcome back. We’re happy you’re here and excited to bring you great new advice in the coming months.
With that, let’s get to it!
This week marks National Fire Prevention Week. The theme? Preventing house fires. Nick Nolte seemed to have missed this memo. His Malibu house burned down this week due to an electrical shortage, causing an estimated $3million between structural and personal property damage. Ouch. Fortunately Mr. Nolte got out suffering only minor cuts and bruises.
Are you prepared? Check out our “House Fire / Get Prepared” section to get tips on getting prepared for the possibility of a house fire. And don’t let a faulty circuit start a fire at your house – test them today. Read more in our article on simple tips to “Test Electrical Outlets”.
Be smart and be safe!