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Preventing Fires in Your Home

fire safety at homeWhat strikes fear into the heart of a commercial landlord? A tenant who doesn’t pay? Vandals? No, it’s an unannounced visit from the fire marshal! Since the building is older, I was worried he might label it a fire hazard and make us evacuate immediately. Luckily, we only got dinged for two minor things. The whole experience did get me thinking about fire safety and our own home. Call me Smokey Bear, but I think there are probably some things we can all improve on as far as preventing fires at home, and no, because you don’t cook much does not mean you can’t have a fire!

Check Your Smoke Alarms

Years ago, the unwritten rule was to change your smoke alarm batteries when daylight savings began and ended. What if you live in Indiana or Arizona where they don’t do daylight savings? What about now that there is much more time on longer daylight months? I also recently noticed a smoke alarm we took down because it was beeping and we didn’t have an extra battery. Don’t forget to put them back up! Smoke detectors work great, but not if they don’t have batteries and are stuck in a drawer.

Get a Carbon Monoxide Detector

If you have any sort of appliance or heating system that uses any fuel besides electricity, or if you have and attached garage, you need a carbon monoxide detector. After reading this article about a whole family who died in their sleep from carbon monoxide poisoning, it freaked me out a little bit.  At least I might be able to see or smell a fire. I am putting a new battery in our detector right  now.

Have a Working Fire Extinguisher

One of the things we got dinged for at the office was for having a fire extinguisher that was old and not recently inspected. Apparently for commerical use, you have to have your extinguisher inspected by a licensed company every year. It costs about $11 to do this where we live. I don’t know that I will do this with our extinguishers at home, but if you have an old one that is questionable, it might be a good idea to replace it. They aren’t expensive. If you have a large house or a work shop, it’s a good idea to have an easily accessible extinguisher in each area. If you don’t know where your extinguisher is, that doesn’t count!

Be Careful With Storage

The other thing we got in trouble for at work was storing old file boxes near the furnace. One spark and it could have been kaboom! Well maybe it wasn’t explosive, but it could have easily started a fire. Keep flammable materials away from pilot lights or other electrical appliances.

Clean Your Chimney

If you have a chimney, summer or fall  is a great time to call the chimney sweep. We had this done in our first house, and I don’t remember it being that expensive. I can easily see people wishing they had remembered to clean the chimney after they’ve had a fire. In Colorado, we always tend to be alert to fires. It seems like this time of year, you can think fire and one seems to break out. I know I’ve probably had a false sense of security about fire safety since we have a newer house and don’t live near the forest, but I had a work collegue who lost his house to fire recently. It was newer than ours. Sometimes, you can’t prevent all catastrophies, but it is easy to make sure you’ve done everything you can to avoid them. What other fire safety tips do you have? Ever been in a house fire?   Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/think4photop

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. Awesome post, Kim!! This is a subject near and dear to my heart, with Rick having been a firefiighter for 24 years and having seen some awful things. I would add to this list “Have an escape plan if there is a fire”. Also, be careful with candles and the like. We were once at someone’s house for a party and the candle in their bathroom started the hand towel on fire, which made the fire start crawling up the wall, etc. Luckily somebody found the small fire before it turned big, but man, was that scary. Rick’s seen a ton of candle-related fires and as such we never burn candles in the house.

  2. I think we’re guilty of many of these ourselves. Which, I know, is horribly stupid. We always have grand plans of checking/changing things quarterly or every six months but rarely do. The other big one, I think, is candles like Laurie mentioned above. We rarely use them since we have little ones and seeing how they play with them whenever we have them out I can see how they could easily start a fire if overlooked.

  3. I am actually glad that you posted this, because it reminds me that we need to check on our fire extinguisher. We had a small kitchen fire in one of our rental apartments and when we went to use the fire extinguisher it looked like it was from the 60s and didn’t work. Ever since then, we have made a point to keep our fire extinguishers up to date.

  4. A house fire is actually one of my biggest fears! I always make sure candles are blown out, electronics are unplugged when I know we will be gone for a long time (such as when go on a vacation), and so on.

  5. Good stuff Kim. I’ll add try to keep matches and lighters away from little kids. But also teach the kids how to use them properly, inserting warnings in the teaching about what will happen if they don’t.

  6. This is pretty good advice. I have friend that their house burned down a few years ago and they lost everything. They were able to recover financially thanks to insurance and help from family, friends, and neighbors but the trauma will always be there. I never really thought about fires before this happened, but now I’m always checking to make sure I can prevent as much as I can.

  7. We just put in all new smoke detectors in our new house. There was only one in the whole house with none in the rooms. My wife was not cool with that. Now, I have to get a carbon monoxide detector for our gas fireplace.

  8. I think fire is probably one of my biggest home fears. It’s always terrified me. I have one of those combo smoke detectors/carbon monoxide detectors that actually “talks” along with alarms, but I admit I forget about changing the batteries. Normally it makes some kind of annoying beeping noise when the battery runs low, but I admit to having disabled the detector in the past when that’s happened. Not very smart.

  9. Such a great tip Kim! If you have children in your house, we should make sure to hide all the flammable in our house.

  10. My sis had a house fire many years ago. Turned out her toddler pulled a chair up to the stove and turned on a burner and their was a piece of tupperware on the stove. She got out with the two little ones okay but lots of damage. Her husband was a volunteer firefighter at the time, too, but he didn’t get the page somehow. Probably, just as well.

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