Fire Away! 4 Hot Tips for a Fire-Safe Summer

by Matt Solis


During the dry summer months, wildfires are a constant concern throughout California. Photo: American Ratings Corporation (2015)

So, you survived the 4th of July without any major fire-related catastrophes. However, just because the fireworks have subsided (for the most part—watch out for stragglers), it doesn’t mean you can cruise through the rest of fire season on autopilot. To make sure you have your bases covered in terms of fire safety, take a look at this checklist:

1. Make sure your smoke detectors are operational. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably been tempted to remove the batteries from a smoke alarm—especially by the 27th time you inadvertently set it off while cooking bacon. However, in the event of a legitimate fire emergency, having your smoke detectors out of commission can carry dire consequences. If you want to cut down on the frequency of accidental triggers, consider swapping out your old units for recently updated models. In addition to being equipped with built-in, tamper-proof batteries to ensure functionality, the new smoke alarms have a “hush” feature, so the next time you burn your toast, the mere touch of a button will restore tranquility to your home environment.

2. Make sure your fire extinguisher is up-to-date and functional. Like smoke detectors, fire extinguishers are a key fixture of in-home fire safety. However, also like smoke detectors, they need to be intermittently inspected. To do this, check the unit’s pressure gauge: if the needle falls within the green area, it’s functional; if it falls anywhere else, it needs to either be serviced or replaced. Note that some older models don’t have these gauges, in which case you’ll need to have the unit inspected by a professional. Of course, if your extinguisher is old or in poor condition, it’s likely time to replace it anyway. For more info on fire extinguishers, read this informative article.


Be prepared in the event of a kitchen fire by making sure your home’s smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are functional. Photo: American Ratings Corporation (2015)

3. Minimize outdoor fire hazards. Outdoor fire prevention is a top concern during the summer, particularly if you live near wildland areas. A wildfire can start from something as simple as sparks from motorized landscaping equipment or stray embers from a barbeque, so be sure to exercise caution when engaged in outdoor activities. In addition to maintaining a sufficient buffer zone around barbeques and fire pits, make sure to thoroughly saturate remaining charcoal briquettes and ashes with water after use.

Another pivotal aspect of outdoor fire safety is landscape maintenance. Prevent brush fires by removing dead leaves and other vegetation around your home (don’t forget the gutters!), and keep trees and bushes well-pruned. This goes for your lawn as well, especially if you’ve cut back on watering during the drought, as dry grass is extremely flammable. Consider using fire-resistant plants and landscaping techniques to further minimize the chances of wildfires.

In addition to maintaining your landscape, make sure to store firewood, flammable liquids, and similar materials away from your home and outbound buildings. Plan to create a 30-foot zone of fire-resistant space around your home, which will greatly reduce the likelihood of fires starting and/or spreading.

4. Address any electrical issues. Even if you’ve secured fire safety outside your home, remember that a fire can start just as easily from within. One of the most common causes of house fires is malfunctioning or overburdened electrical components. With the increased use of electrical devices today, it’s not uncommon for circuits to become overloaded, especially in older homes, so make sure your system is capable of handling your usage patterns. If you’re frequently blowing fuses or tripping circuit breakers, or if you notice outlets and switches that are hot to the touch, don’t hesitate to call an electrician—these are all indicators of an unsafe wiring condition.

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