Putting out a fire

If a fire does break out despite all the precautions you have taken you have to make an immediate decision on whether to attempt to put it out or to leave it to the local fire brigade. In all cases, make sure that everyone else leaves the house immediately: then, if the fire is small and has not got out of control, you can attempt to tackle it. Never take unnecessary risks-your life is far more important than saving property.

To put out a fire in the home, it is essential both to have a fire extinguisher and fire blanket to hand and to know how to use them to best effect. The most common types of extinguisher for domestic use are water extinguishers and dry powder extinguishers. Neither need frequent maintenance and do not create the toxicity hazards associated with either foam or vapourizing extinguishers. Water extinguishers will only put out fires involving wood, fabrics and furnishings while the dry powder-type will put out practically any type


Do not leave young children alone near unguarded fires. Make sure their clothing-particularly nightwear-is completely fire resistant. Electric fires

Keep the element free of dust and check regularly for faulty wiring. If fuses blow continually, get a competent electrician to investigate your electrical system. Keep fires away from curtains, bed clothes, drying clothes and so on. Coal fires

Never bank up the fire too high or leave it unattended for extended periods. Never use paraffin or petrol to start the fire. Have your chimney swept at least once a year. Do not position mirrors over fires-they encourage people to come too close. Liquid petroleum gas heaters Keep spare gas containers outdoors but protect them from frost. Never move the heater when it is alight. Maintain adequate ventilation and only operate the fire strictly in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions. Change bottled gas containers in the open air whenever possible. Otherwise provide good ventilation by opening doors and windows.

Paraffin heaters Do not store spare fuel inside the house. Always position the heater where it cannot be knocked over and never move it while alight or hot. including oil/petrol and electrical fires. Remember that water extinguishers should never be used on electrical fires, or on those involving inflammable liquids.

Try to position extinguishers so they are easy to get at; there is little point in rummaging through a cupboard while a fire is burning. It may be a good idea to have more than one extinguisher so as little time as possible is spent in getting the blaze under control.

When using the extinguisher, direct it at the base of the flames. As the fire recedes, step in a little closer and douse the whole area with water or powder to prevent it flaring up again. If electricity is involved switch off at the mains as soon as possible. Be aggressive but never foolhardy; it is far better to save your life rather than your property-especially in the face of a large fire.

Fire blankets, made of glass fibre, are cheap and extremely effective in


Never smoke in bed. Beware of dropping unextinguished cigarettes into rubbish bins. Electric blankets

Buy only approved makes. Never use an underblanket as an overblanket. Avoid twisting the leads or rucking up the blanket in any way. Have the blanket serviced at least once every two years. Wiring

This must be installed by a competent electrician and have adequate power points to avoid overloading. Ensure that each plug has the correct fuse rating for the appliance under use. Never run electric cable under carpets or rugs. Chip pans

These should never be more than half full of fat or allowed to overheat. Never leave the pan unattended. Kitchen

Keep saucepan handles away from the heat. Check that all electrical leads are kept tidy. Storage

Store inflammable items-such as aerosolspraysand insect repellants-well away from heat sources. Never fill a roof space with inflammable rubbish or old furniture. Gas

Keep appliances regularly maintained and serviced. Call the gas supplier immediately if you smell any leaks in the house. smothering small fires. They are ideal for putting out oil/petrol fires and in situations where articles of clothing are alight. Keep one of these next to each fire extinguisher so you can tackle all types of blaze quickly and effectively.

The blanket should be positioned reasonably close to the cooker, but not so close as to be inaccessible if the hot plate is a mass of flames. If a fire breaks out pull the tab sharply downwards to remove the blanket from the container. Stand well back from the flames, holding the top edge of the blanket unrolled in front of you. Keep your fingers away from the edge and turn your wrists back to protect your hands.

Raise the blanket to protect yourself and advance towards the flames. Lower the blanket over the blazing pan and leave it resting there until the fire dies down completely. Leave the blanket over the oven until the pan has cooled; removing it too early could easily cause re-ignition.

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