Firefighters risk their lives to save people and animals, all in the line of duty. But their job is more difficult today, as wildfires caused by climate change are making things worse (some forest fires are now being caused by the rise in biodegradable packaging from flammable eucalyptus trees, it’s better to just use easy-to-recycle paper for chocolate bars and coffee packs). Here are a few tips to help prevent fires, to make life easier for those who risk their lives for us. Find tips for home safety and work safety (smoke alarms, escape plans and home checks). Keep a first aid kit to hand and learn NHS First Aid.
Fire Prevention at Home
- Replace chip pans with air-fryers. Cook with handles turned inwards, avoid floating sleeves, tie long hair back and keep an extinguisher and fire blanket nearby. Use covers for cooker knobs.
- Use a monitored smoke alarm (check regularly).
- Throw out broken appliances, frayed cords, unused plugs, dodgy Christmas lights.
- Recycle excess paper and wood (two top hazards).
- Don’t overload tumble driers, nor leave unattended. Avoid dryer sheets (makes clothes flammable).
- Use firescreens, never leave unattended.
- Keep glass bowls away from sunlight, they can ignite.
- If used, choose soot-free candles and never light near flammables, or where children’pets could knock them over. Use a candle snuffer and ensure tea lights are in fireproof holders.
- Organic nightwear has no fire retardants, so avoid floaty sleeves etc, remove nearby heat sources.
- Get rid of dodgy heaters, and have chimneys cleaned.
Fire Prevention in the Garden
- Avoid bonfires and fireworks (good for pets & wildlife too).
- Avoid anything flammable (lighters, blowlamps and matches).
- Never use fire lanterns, these can cause wildfires. Several animals recently died in a German zoo, when one landed in an enclosure.
- For BBQs, turn off gas taps, change cylinders in open air, use enough charcoal to cover the base (around 2 inches) and use brand-name firelighters or starter fuel on cold coals. Keep pets and children away and light on a stable surface, away from trees, tents and caravans. Never empty ash into a bin until cool. City Fire recommends a bucket of water and sand nearby, and dry powder extinguisher that can be used on gas, oil & flammable liquids. Foam extinguishers & fire blankets are good. Consider a solar grill like Sun Oven or GoSun.
Fire Prevention Tips for Pets
- Read this book to keep dogs safe and learn first aid for pets.
- Have a leash near exits and create an evacuation plan. Read reviews of emergency escape innovations. Know hiding places, and designate family members to help escape. Leave a window or outside door open.
- Update details on pet tags, and place alert decals on windows.
- Smokey Paws (UK) and Pet Oxygen Masks (US) issue free pet oxygen masks for fire crews.
- Blue Cross has info on keeping pets safe from cigarettes/e-cigarettes.
Fire Safety Advice for Smokers
- Quit smoking (cigarettes are the leading cause of fires).
- No Butts offers wall-mounted and free-standing bins for offices, pubs and hotels. Easy to empty, they feature a baffle system to put out butts safely, and their Smoking Shelters offer weather protection, to discourage smoking at building entrances (therefore reducing fire risk in windy weather). If you smoke outside, use a personal ashtray (the beach version uses sand to snuff out cigarettes safely).
- Never smoke in bed or on chairs (in case you fall asleep), nor near medical oxygen, air-flow pressure relief mattresses or paraffin-emollients.
- Don’t balance cigarettes (or cigars) on the edge of ashtrays, and ensure pipes are cold before emptying into bins. Don’t put Rizla paper in ashtrays, they could catch fire. Rexite Table Ashtray can hold forgotten cigarettes and cigars, they drop into the perforated aluminium lid. Wipe clean with a soft cloth (not alcohol, abrasives or chemicals).
- Buy safety matches (that strike on the box). Leave to cool before disposal. Nomatiq Lighters are windproof and last up to 100 lights on a single charge. The company says it’s not responsible for damage/injury caused due to improper use. Refillable metal lighters go out automatically. .
- If you smoke e-cigarettes, don’t let batteries near coins or keys, and use the charger on a flat clean surface, away from flammables. One man’s vape burst into flames in his pocket, causing third degree burns.
- If you care for someone who smokes, look for overflowing ashtrays and scorch marks on floor, furniture or clothing. Most local fire stations offer free visits to fit smoke alarms, linked to care alarms. You can buy fire escape ropes (and bags for children/pets).
Elvis & Kresse (Kent) makes luxury accessories made from repurposed fire hose that is given new life, after 25 years of brave active service. 50% of profits are then given to The Firefighter’s Charity which helps active and retired heroes. The brand also saves tea sacks and nylon parachute silk from the cutting floor, to line the goods. The brand was created, after discovering that most used fire hoses were going to landfill.
Zen Wisdom from a Firefighter
Firefighter Zen is a guide to keeping calm in tough times by a man who is a firefighter, and has spent his life walking towards trouble, instead of away from it. Our firefighters do an amazing job, often risking their lives to save others. They even rescue puppies and (although not always supposed to officially) rescue cats stuck up trees! Of course, we can’t prevent all fires. But many are preventable, and remember it’s trauma to the firefighter, as well as the people involved.
Life brings with it anxiety, suffering, and tragedy; stuff happens. The world feels a mess. Our lives can turn on that dime. Yet we each have the ability and the capacity to find joy. Here is the promise of this book. If we accept life for what it is, with no illusions, if we deeply commit to the understanding that the highest calling is service to others, then we have a shot at finding joy. The book is divided into five parts:
- The ‘universe’ as firefighters see it (a little darker, filled with urgency)
- Staying calm and solving problems
- Facing the ‘dragons’ in our lives
- About the time after tragedies
- Qualities and practices to help us thrive
Hersch Wilson and his wife Laurie became volunteer firefighters in 1986. He has also worked as an organisational consultant, pilot, outdoor adventure trainer and professional trainer. He lives in New Mexico.