What To Do If Your Neighbor’s House Is On Fire

One of the most terrifying events imaginable is the destruction of property–or even life–in a fire. Even if everyone makes it out okay, you know that many of your cherished memories and probably some valuables are gone forever. There are some things that insurance money simply cannot replace. Even though this possibility is scary, sometimes knowing that it’s happening to people you care about is just as bad. What happens when you look next door and there’s smoke pouring from inside your neighbor’s house? It can be difficult to know what to do during a time of panic, and you’ll want to know how to help the most.

First, don’t assume that someone else will call 911. Don’t wait in an effort to find out if it’s already been done, either. Do it yourself, and do it right away. Second, do not put yourself in danger. Legally, it’s best to help from outside. Putting yourself in harm’s way could make the problem even worse. If your neighbors escape through the back door but you go in the front, someone might then come looking for you. Keep in mind that if any help you provide actually results in more damage to the property or even surrounding homes, you might be liable for whatever your neighbor’s insurance does not cover. Even if you’re just trying to help, you have to think about your own wellbeing too.

Things can get more complicated the bigger the fire becomes, especially in a densely packed residential area. Sometimes a fire will move from one home to the next, and in this case liability becomes a primary concern for everyone affected. If your own home was damaged because of a fire at a neighbor’s home, then be sure to document the area as best you can, and provide a full report of whatever happened to the authorities. After that, submit a request to your own homeowners insurance. They might cover some of the damages, or they might hassle your neighbor’s insurance company to cover the costs. Either way, it shouldn’t remain your responsibility.

The same is true if your neighbor’s negligence caused your own home to catch fire. In the worst case it could turn into a criminal issue, but that’s for the authorities to decide. Do your best to provide a true and unbiased accounting to any questions you might be asked by police or insurance investigators. These questions might be extremely uncomfortable, but they’ll save everyone a lot of trouble down the road.

That’s it. There’s not much you can do if your neighbor’s house is on fire. Call the authorities, provide whatever first aid you can a safe distance away from the burning home, and let firefighters do their work. Then again, if your neighbors ask for your garden hose–turn on the water.

Here is a video of someone’s neighbor’s house on fire – quite a scary event!

California Wildfires — Worst Year In History

California Wildfires — Worst Year In History

In December of 2017, we witnessed mother nature at her worst. A bevy of wildfires popped up throughout the state of California. The fires ranged from north San Francisco to San Diego. The most threatening fires were in northern San Fernando Valley and northern Los Angeles. The largest fires consumed 90,000 acres in just a few days.

The incredibly large fires took the state and nation by storm. The Thomas Fire burned through the woodlands to the north of Ventura. The Thomas Fire became a viral video when it burned right up to the edges of the 405 Freeway, where roughly 400,000 cars use for transportation per day, and shut down the northbound lanes. Nearly 200,000 people were forced to evacuate Ventura, Los Angeles, and their surrounding areas. In the Bel-Air area, an additional 700 homes were evacuated due to a 475-acre fire burning on their heels.

Reasons The Fires Began

Every year, California has a wildfire season where residents are on high alert for a fire that might pop up out of the blue. This season typically does not stretch into December, but in 2017 it did; and it brought havoc. Some of the reasons for the extended season are:

  • Weather patterns
    • 2017 began with an unusually high amount of precipitation. The heavy precipitation in the beginning led to massive vegetation growth. In a normal year, the vegetation growth would not be a big deal. Unfortunately, the high precipitation was followed by an extremely dry summer, drying out the vegetation that had just grown. This leaves a bountiful of fuel for the fires to burn.
  • Expanded Fire Season
    • It has been reported that fire season is getting longer every year. The expanding season has been attributed to climate change.
  • Growing Residential Areas
    • California has been developing rapidly. Residential areas are expanding closer to the woodlands, putting homes closer to the danger areas that they have been in the past. One area that was affected by the fires in Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa’s population has increased 13% from 2000-2010. The wildfires of December 2017 destroyed 5% of the homes in this town.
  • Santa Ana Winds
    • The Santa Ana Winds are winds that bring hot, dry air from inland California towards the Pacific Ocean. These winds were consistent during the fires, at some points reaching gusts of 80 mph, carrying the fires over large areas.

The Birth of the Friction Match

In 1781 a man who made one of the most accidental discoveries in the history of the world was born. John Walker is the man who invented the match, even though he did not set out to. During the early 1800s John Walker was a scientist working in a lab attempting to create a lighting component. He was mixing the chemicals with a wooden spoon. When he was finished he went to rub the excess chemicals off of the spoon. At this moment, the friction cause a spark and the first match was born. His partner in the laboratory, Samuel Jones, then went on to create the brand “Lucifers.” Lucifers were sold in London and most commonly used to smoke tobacco.

The History of The Match

The original match was created out of antimony sulfide, potassium chloride, gum, and starch. John Walker was not able to make a large sum of money off of his invention. The independently wealthy scientist refused to patent what he had created. Without a patent, any individual was left free to recreate Walker’s invention, creating a wealth of competition. Isaac Holden tried to take credit for Walker’s invention. Holden made his idea public in October 1829, about two and a half years Walker took his invention public.

Throughout the years, matches have changed quite a bit. The original chemical components were antimony sulfide, potassium chloride, gum, and starch. Since then, Isaac Holden’s version were sulphur based, Charles Sauria’s version of matches were white phosphorous-based. Sauria’s version came to an end when white phosphorus was banned for toxicity. Today’s current matches are composed of phosphorous and with potassium chlorate. The reaction occurs when the match is struck against a rough surface in order to generate friction. Today, there are also “strike-anywhere matches”. Strike-anywhere matches have an added amount of powdered glass which cause friction against multiple surfaces.

Fire Prevention

Fire is not something you want to play with. Matches, if left unattended or treated with careless behavior, can turn a small fire on a wood stick into a massive blazing fire that puts people’s lives in danger. When you are dealing with fire, it is important to follow standard safety procedures and make sure the flame is completely out if the fire is left unattended.

Famous Fires

When speaking of famous fires, there are always a few that quickly come to mind, for example, the Great Chicago Fire, The Great Fire of London and the San Francisco Earthquake Fire. In reality, most of the major cities of the world have been burnt to the ground, at least once. In some cases, these great fires have been caused by war, like when Sherman burned the city of Atlanta, destroying some 3,000 businesses, hospitals, homes and schools. More often, they have been the result of natural disasters, like earthquakes, and poor methods of construction, made worse by the difficulty of fighting fires that reach a certain size or cover multiple locations.

The Great Chicago Fire started in the evening of October 8, 1871. While records show that it did likely start in a barn owned by Patrick O’Leary and his wife Catherine, there is absolutely no evidence that it was the fault of the family cow kicking over a lantern. Propelled by Chicago’s never-ending wind, the fire spread over 2,000 acres, right through the heart of the city, in a little over 24 hours. The death toll was under 300 people, but more than 90,000 were left homeless at the start of the frigid Midwestern winter. The massive destruction resulted in Chicago rebuilding based on what was learned from the fire and Chicago’s fire department became a model for other large cities. National Fire Prevention Week was created to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire and has been instrumental in increasing awareness and promoting prevention in an effort to keep tragedies like this from happening again.  

The Great Fire of London began on September 2, 1666, in a baker’s shop, and lasted for several days. We think of London as being this wonderful European city built of stone and brick. Not so in 1,666. In those days, there were closely packed houses constructed mainly of very dry and brittle wood. The fire burned for four days, destroying more than 13,000 homes, churches, including St. Paul’s Cathedral, and other buildings. Fortunately, and quite amazingly, very few lives were lost. In addition, there was actually a benefit that came out of this catastrophic event. The area of the city in which the Great Plague had settled the year before was entirely destroyed by the fire, in effect, sterilizing and making it inhabitable again. London, like Chicago, learned the lessons of this monstrous fire and rebuilt using brick and stone. It’s not as easy as being able to click here to stop a fire, but the building codes are much more progressive.

The San Francisco Earthquake Fire was started by the rupturing of the San Andreas fault on Wednesday, April 18, 1906, but the scale of the fire was more because of broken and leaky gas lines and firefighting errors. San Francisco’s Fire Chief, Dennis T. Sullivan, died in the initial earthquake, leaving a lack of leadership that led to disastrous decisions, such as using dynamite to create a firebreak. This only resulted in more fires, covering 490 city blocks.  Nearly 25,000 city buildings and homes were destroyed, and the death toll was believed to be 3000, most due to the fires. San Francisco’s building codes are now among the most progressive in the world.

If you would like to learn more about the Great Fire of London, please watch the video below:

Do Fire Alarms and Smoke Detectors Keep Families Safe?

Fires in the home start for a variety of reasons. Cooking fires are high on the list, but so are things like candles left burning, smoking, electrical issues from faulty wiring and appliances and a range of other factors that are likely to occur at night, while everyone is asleep. In fact, half of all deaths from home fires happen between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. Fire alarms and smoke detectors cannot prevent these fires but they can keep families safe from injury and death, as well as reduce overall property damage. The one major roadblock in their effectiveness is the human factor: fire alarms and smoke detectors must first be installed and then maintained.

The vast majority of homes in the U.S. have at least a one smoke alarm, which is a very good thing. Less good, however, is that three out of every five deaths related to fire in the home, was the result of no alarms present or none that were working. This strongly implies that many, if not most, of those deaths might have been prevented with a $49 smoke detector or a new package of batteries.

According to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), “The death rate per 100 reported fires was more than twice as high in homes with no or no working smoke alarms (1.18 deaths per 100 fires) as it was in fires with working smoke alarms (0.53 deaths per 100 fires). The lowest fire death rates were seen in homes with hardwired smoke alarms and sprinklers.”

Smoke detectors that are hardwired into the structure’s electrical system are more effective than those that operate solely on batteries. This takes the need for the batteries to be checked and replaced on a regular basis out of the equation. There is also the ability of hardwired detectors to be interconnected throughout the house, which increases warning time for those farther away from the point of origin of the fire. NFPA reports that the death rate is 2.5 times as high in fires where there are battery-powered alarms instead of those that are hardwired.  

Fire alarms and smoke detectors can play a very large role in keeping people safe in the event of a fire, but only if they are used properly. Units installed in more locations or increased alarm volume may be required if the occupants have disabilities, take medications that cause them to sleep especially soundly, overuse alcohol or drugs or when there are other mitigating factors. Not only do batteries need to be tested and replaced but nuisance alarms must be taken care of in a responsible manner: ripping the unit off the wall because it goes off at the wrong time is, obviously, not responsible. When a smoke detector isn’t functioning properly it must be repaired or replaced immediately. Not doing so puts family members at significant risk.

Common Fire Hazards

On average, U.S. fire departments responded to:

A fire every 23 seconds

A structure fire every 63 seconds

A home fire every 86 seconds

An outside or unclassified fire every 52 seconds

A highway vehicle fire every 181 seconds

On average, fire claims nine lives every day

Fact Sheet, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

In 2015, there were more than 1.3 million fires in the U.S., resulting in the deaths of 3,280 private citizens. More than 68 thousand firefighters were injured, 68 of them fatally. Many of these fires could have easily been avoided with simple precautions and foresight.

Common Fire Hazards

The first step in prevention is to be aware of the circumstances that most often lead to fires. Some of the most common fire hazards include:

Cooking – according to the NFPA, “cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries and is tied for the second leading cause of home fire deaths.” These fires tend to happen while frying or when cooking is left unattended. Keep paper towels, pot holders, cookbooks and other combustible materials away from burners and never leave to check your favorite website while something is cooking on the stove or in the oven.

Candles –  everyone loves the glow of candlelight, but candles are a major cause of home fires. They often start due to being left too close to flammable items, left unattended or accidently knocked over or being brushed against by a dog or cat. When you leave the room, blow out the candles.

Smoking – smoking was the leading cause of home fire deaths for decades, but the number has been coming down, mainly due to less people smoking. For those who do continue to smoke, never do so in bed, when overly tired or anywhere in the vicinity of medical equipment or oxygen.

Clothes dryers – dryers contain a heating element, and it should not come as such a surprise that they carry a significant potential for starting fires. It is important to consistently clean the lint trap, as well as the vent pipe and area where the screen is housed. Always keep combustible materials away from the dryer.

Children playing with fire – children start more than 7,000 home fires a year, per the NFPA. They should not have access to matches, lighters and other ignition sources and should be taught fire safety as early as possible.

Electrical – electrical fires can be due to a variety of reasons, such as equipment malfunction, overloaded circuits, damaged cords, overheated light bulbs, space heaters and other appliances and causes. Make sure to replace frayed cords and damaged plugs. Never run wires under rugs or furniture, and think twice about do-it-yourself electrical projects.

Flammable liquids – fuels, cleaning supplies, solvents, paint and dozens of other liquids stored under kitchen and bathroom sinks, as well as stacked and stored in closets and garages, can ignite from a simple spark or even excessive heat. Store outside the home in a cool, well-ventilated environment.

Lightning strikes are another cause of fires, but there is little that can be done other than to minimize damage by unplugging electrical equipment and using surge protectors, which may or may not provide protection. For all of the other common fire hazards listed here, just a few moments of awareness and being proactive can make all the difference.

If you would like to learn more about fire safety, please check out the following video:

How Does a Fire Extinguisher Work?

Everyone knows how to work a fire extinguisher, right? While it isn’t difficult, being faced with a fire tends to rattle people, and time is not necessarily your friend. A small fire that could be easily put out can quickly get out of hand if it takes too long to get the fire extinguisher into action. Something that can help, is to simply remember to P.A.S.S. This is an easy-to-remember acronym that stands for pull, aim, squeeze and sweep. You pull the pin, which is the step often forgotten, aim the nozzle at the base of the fire, squeeze the handle and use a sweeping motion to totally extinguish the fire.

Fire extinguishers have been around for nearly 200 years. The first known patent for one was in 1723, but it involved using gun powder to explode and distribute the liquid meant put out the fire. This model did not prove wildly popular. What we consider the first modern fire extinguisher, much like what we use today, was invented in 1818 by British Captain George William Manby. Basically, all fire extinguishers function generally the same: the fire-extinguishing contents are held under pressure until released with the lever or handle. What does differ are the agents used on the fire. They vary depending on the type of fire and either remove the supply of oxygen, reduce the heat or reduce the fuel that is keeping the fire going.  

There are five types of fire. It is important to know the type of fire in order to choose the correct fire extinguisher. Using the wrong type can be dangerous and make the fire worse or spread it.

  • Class A – normal combustibles such as wood, paper, and cloth.
  • Class B – flammable and combustible liquids and gases, such as gasoline and paints.
  • Class C – electrical fire.
  • Class D – flammable metals, such as sodium, potassium and lithium.
  • Class K – cooking fires, cooking oils, greases, fats

Common Types of Fire Extinguishers

Water and Foam – uses water to remove the heat component and foam to reduce the oxygen from the fire. A water extinguisher can be used only on Class A, while foam can be used on A and B.

Carbon Dioxide – takes away the oxygen and removes the heat through the cold discharge. Effective on Class B and C fires.

Dry Chemical – the multi-purpose Dry Chemical extinguisher is the most popular of all extinguishers because it can be used on Class A, B and C fires.

Wet Chemical – used on Class K, cooking-type fires to remove heat and separate oxygen and fuel.

Dry Powder – similar to dry chemical extinguishers, separates fuel from oxygen or removes the heat component of a fire. Only used on combustible metal fires, Class D.

Safe Ways to Build a Bonfire

Whether your favorite season is summer because of those long days at the beach or are the kind that lives for the ski slopes when the thermometers plummet in winter, who doesn’t love the transition seasons, spring and fall? It’s hard to find fault with warm spring days when everything is coming back to life. Birds are singing again and pretty much everything starts blossoming and blooming. But, as wonderful as all of that, is there really anything better than the first nip in the air that signals that fall is here? The sweltering heat of summer is past and it’s time for gorgeous color changes, long walks, football rivalries and, maybe best of all, those autumn bonfires!  

Most of us have fond memories of backyard bonfires when we were growing up. Some were for the purpose of burning mountains of leaves that had been raked. Others were built for “wienie roasts” and attended by the entire neighborhood. Everyone had their own special method for toasting the perfect marshmallow and the art and intricacy of building s’mores could rival many of today’s cooking shows.

Those childhood bonfires were especially fun because they were so carefree and easy. That’s because there were adults present who were responsible for building and monitoring the fire so that no one got hurt and surrounding property was protected. Now that we are the adults, it is important to know just what all is necessary to insure a safe, fun experience for everyone. That means learning safe ways to build a bonfire.

Steps to Follow for a Safe Bonfire

  • Research legal issues pertaining to your area, including dates, times, locations, etc.
  • Obtain permit if one is necessary
  • Check with local fire department for safety requirements and recommendations
  • Find a clear spot, far away from fences, buildings, trees, roots and plants and sheltered from wind
  • Gather necessary components:
    • Bricks or stones
    • Tinder material, like twigs, pine needles, bark, newspaper, etc.
    • Kindling, small to medium sticks
    • Logs, dry hardwood is best
  • Use bricks or stone to create a circle
  • Place the tinder in the center of the circle, surrounded by the kindling stacked in a teepee shape
  • Arrange logs parallel to each other on two sides of the kindling teepee
  • Repeat for several layers, not more than 5, arranging logs perpendicular to previous layer
  • Drop match into the center so that it ignites the tinder material
  • Watch for sparks and flying embers. Be sure to have a source of water nearby, just in case.

Now, the only thing is left is the search for the perfect stick to roast that wienie and toast those marshmallows! That, of course, and to remember to make sure the fire is completely out before going in for the night.

When the word “Bonfire” is spoken, the hit song by Childish Gambino comes to mind. Here it is in all its glory!

The Best Songs About Fire

Songs are written to express what we often find impossible to say in another way. We do this literally and through symbols, which makes the elements, earth, air, water and fire, favorites of song writers. And, of these, fire is the one that most often shows up in song. Warmth can bring comfort and flames can leave scars, which opens up a wide range for storytellers.  

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of songs that make reference to fire. Just a few of the more well-known songs about fire are:

“Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash

“Set Fire to The Rain” by Adele

“Fire” by Jimi Hendrix

“Fire” by Bruce Springsteen

“Fire” by The Pointer Sisters

“Light My Fire” by The Doors

“We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel

“Into The Fire” by Sarah McLachlan

“Fire and Rain” by James Taylor

The list could easily go on and on. Some lesser-known songs about fire become more well-known as time passes and similar tragedies occur.

James Keelaghan wrote “Cold Missouri Waters” about the Mann Gulch Fire of 1949 in which 13 firefighters died. Most of them belonged to a team of smokejumpers who parachuted into the area only to be almost immediately cut off from any escape route by unexpectedly high winds. Within minutes, a “blow-up” of the fire covered 3,000 acres in less than ten minutes. One smokejumper, Wagner Dodge, made a desperate attempt to survive by creating an escape fire. He tried to get the others to do the same but they ran for other cover instead. Dodge dove into the middle of the charred area the fire left and prayed.

The final two verses of the song tell the story:

Sky had turned red, smoke was boiling
Two hundred yards to safety, death was fifty yards behind
I don’t know why I just thought it
I struck a match to waist high grass running out of time
Tried to tell them, Step into this fire I set
We can’t make it, this is the only chance you’ll get
But they cursed me, ran for the rocks above instead
I lay face down and prayed above the cold Missouri waters

And when I rose, like the phoenix
In that world reduced to ashes there were none but two survived
I stayed that night and one day after
Carried bodies to the river, wonder how I stayed alive
Thirteen stations of the cross to mark to their fall
I’ve had my say, I’ll confess to nothing more
I’ll join them now, because they left me long before
Thirteen crosses high above the cold Missouri waters
Thirteen crosses high above the cold Missouri shore

There are songs about fires that actually happened but were less dramatic and tragic than “Cold Missouri Waters”. The English rock band, Deep Purple, witnessed a fire that was started during a Frank Zappa concert when a fan fired a flare gun at the ceiling. The venue, a casino, was totally destroyed, along with all of Zappa’s musical equipment. Deep Purple members, Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Anderson Paice then wrote the song “Smoke on the Water” about the experience:

We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn’t have much time
Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around
But some stupid with a flare gun
Burned the place to the ground

Smoke on the water, fire in the sky
Smoke on the water

They burned down the gambling house
It died with an awful sound
Funky Claude was running in and out
Pulling kids out the ground
When it all was over
We had to find another place
But Swiss time was running out
It seemed that we would lose the race

Smoke on the water, fire in the sky
Smoke on the water

Then there are the songs that tell about the courage and sacrifice of real life, modern day firefighters. “The Firefighter Song” was written by New York State firefighter, Paul Cummings, after responding to a fatal fire that occurred shortly after the birth of his daughter. He wrote the song for himself in an effort to try and make sense of the tragedy and reconcile his duties on the job with those at home. Cummings never intended for the song to be made public, but once a few of the firefighters in his company heard it, the song became a hit. The final chorus is a good representation of what was going through his head after that fire:

And they don’t want any money
For the things they train to do
They help the ones in need
And they see the whole job through
Well aware of the costs, That it takes to save a life
But that doesn’t matter, To the ones they are inside
We all need to sing, Yeah we all need to sing
We all need to sing, that firefighter’s song
And we all need to pray, cause that firefighter’s gone

What Is Stop, Drop and Roll?

It is one thing to sit in a classroom listening to a safety presentation or to read about proper procedures in the event of a fire and a totally different experience when actually faced with it. The difference can be expressed in one word; panic. This is what led to the “Stop, Drop and Roll” program and why it has proven effective.

For the vast majority of people, there is both fascination and fear when it comes to fire. However, fascination vanishes in a heartbeat when confronted with an uncontrolled fire. Few injuries are more painful than a burn, and there are few things more terrifying than part or all of your body catching on fire! There is a reason why it seems perfectly realistic in movies that someone would leap from the upper levels of a tall building, with zero chance of survival, rather than face the prospect of being engulfed with flames.

A severe burn, the kind that can result when someone’s clothing catches on fire, can not only be extremely painful, but it is one of the leading causes of unintentional death in the U.S. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), more than 300 children end up in the emergency room every day because of burn-related injuries. Of those 300 per day, two die from being burned. This is why it is crucial that everyone, especially children, know what to do if clothing catches on fire.  

Stop, Drop and Roll

To minimize injury, when clothing catches fire, the response should be immediate:

Stop – try not to panic and above all, do not run. Running only feeds the fire with more oxygen, which is the last thing you want to do.

Drop – as quickly as possible, drop to the ground in a prone position.

Roll – immediately start rolling over and over, backwards and forwards, in order to shut off the supply of oxygen and smother the flames. Do not stop until the fire is completely out.  

The “Stop, Drop and Roll” program has proven very effective. Through the years, there have been suggestions to make it better. One was to add “Cover”, which meant to cover the face with the hands before dropping and rolling. This would help protect the face from burns and potential scarring, as well as keep the super-heated air from burning the lungs. The argument against this is that it makes the rolling part less effective. The other main suggestion was to add “Cool” to the end, because of the importance of cooling the burn area as soon as possible. The discussion about enhancing “Stop, Drop and Roll” is ongoing. The main concern is that its effectiveness comes from its simplicity, and no one wants to jeopardize that, especially when they want people to visit their website.

If you would like to learn more about Stop Drop and Roll, please watch the video below: