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. One way to help is to simplify your life (you don’t have to go wild, but removing reams of old papers and unwanted furniture and throwing out appliances with frayed wires helps. As does sticking to one TV and a radio, rather than having umpteen plugs for endless electronic gadgets. Keep a first aid kit to hand, learn NHS First Aid and take a first aid course (also for pets).
Tips to Help Prevent Fires
- Too much clutter (especially paper and wood) are fire hazards. Get rid of all your unwanted clutter, and it will be nicer to live, as well as safer.
- London Fire Brigade has tips for home safety and workplace safety. They cover smoke alarms, escape plans and free home checks.
- Throw out frayed cords and broken appliances. Cook with handles turned inward, avoid floaty sleeves, tie long hair back and keep an extinguisher and fire blanket nearby.
- Throw out the chip pan and use an air-fryer.
- Don’t leave tumble driers unattended, nor overload. Avoid dryer sheets (makes clothing flammable).
- If you smoke, use a Boodi personal ashtray (there is also a version for the beach, which uses sand to extinguish your cigarette).
- Too many plugs is another hazard. Go through all the electricals in your house and throw out anything dangerous (including old Christmas tree lights). With what’s left, only use the items you need, to avoid heating overload.
- Choose soot-free candles, don’t use near flammables and never leave unattended, or where children/pets could knock them. Use a candle snuffer and ensure tea lights are in fireproof holders.
- Green Moms Collective has a post on choosing safer nightwear, if you want to avoid fire retardants. For organic nightwear, avoid floaty sleeves and trousers.
Preventing Fires Outside the Home
- Avoid bonfires (harms hedgehogs), fireworks), lighters, blowlamps and matches near to anything flammable. Get rid of dodgy heaters, have chimneys cleaned.
- Avoid fire lanterns (along with balloons and kites), these are hazardous to wildlife and fire hazards.
- If you smoke, use a personal ashtray (dropping butts on dry land can start wildfires).
- Have a safe BBQ by turning off gas taps, changing cylinders in open air, use enough charcoal to cover the base, and use brand fire-lighters or starter fuel, on cold coals. Keep pets & children away, choose stable surfaces (away from trees, tents & caravans) and never empty ash into a bin, until cool. City Fire recommends a bucket of water and sand nearby, and a 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.
- Get help for burns: Katie Piper Foundation, Dan’s Fund for Burns & Children’s Burn Trust can help.
- To help prevent forest fires worldwide, reduce your carbon footprint by living simply. Donate to a koala hospital (they ask people not to send mittens for burns, as they don’t help).
- Buy accessories made from recycled fire hose. The beautiful ‘red leather’ items (that are vegan) give 50% of profits to charities that help present and retired firefighters. A Kent social enterprise.
All these items are made by Elvis & Kresse, a Kent-based social enterprise that gives 50% of profits from all sales, to charities that help our firefighters (present and retired). As the hoses have had over 25 years of active service, there may be a few soot marks, but you can give it a happy retirement to thank it for its life-saving work. And it still remains tough (hey, it used to fight fires). And no two reds are ever the same. An ideal alternative to leather.
- This wash bag made from recycled fire hose makes a nice luxury gift. Lined with waste parachute silk (likely nylon, modern ‘silk’ rarely is), it’s ideal to store toiletries or for an overnight stay. Wipe-clean.
- This beautiful reclaimed fire hose belt is made in various sizes, perfect for jeans, chinos or a suit. This skinny belt made from fire hose is a narrow belt with contrast stitch detail, and a small simple sophisticated buckle. Just 1.75cm wide, the elegant stitching means she looks good with a pair of jeans, or hugging a little black dress.
- This reclaimed fire hose phone case is a stunning gift, which is an ideal way to protect your phone or iPhone.
- This reclaimed firehose post bag has an inside zip pocket and hot orange lining made from reclaimed parachute silk (nylon). It can fit your phone, wallet, organiser, books, keys, loose change, business cards and rail card. Recycled fire hose is retired after up to 25 years of service saving lives.
- This reclaimed firehose billfold wallet is lined with reclaimed military grade parachute silk (nylon), your contactless card will work right through the hose. The wallet also has the option of a mall coin pocket. The travel wallet has plenty of storage options.
- This reclaimed firehose luggage tag is robust, and adds a tough of individual character to your existing luggage.
Find alternatives to protect all creatures (image: Hedgehugs)
Choose alternatives to bonfires & fireworks to help wildlife, and save the planet. Both cause a lot of damage. It may sound like being a party pooper, but nobody wants to be responsible for a hedgehog burned to death, or a dog jumping through a stain-glass window and going missing, to get away from fireworks (it happens, so do many outdoor pets die from shock, on Bonfire Night).
Alternatives to Bonfires
Surprisingly, the laws are very lax on bonfires, considering the damage they do. Although some allotments now make their own laws, and ban them. But the law does say that you can’t harm other people’s health or pollute, just to get rid of waste. Local councils may override these laws, and you can fined up to £5000 if your bonfire causes a nuisance. This would include smoke blowing across to someone else’s garden or causing a danger. You are also not allowed to burn anything that is toxic like plastic, rubber, engine oil or anything explosive.
- If you are going to have a bonfire, only use natural materials, nothing toxic. Burning green leaves causes a lot of smoke.
- Before lighting, ideally move the entire pile, to allow hedgehogs and other wildlife to escape.
- If you won’t do this, then gently poke through the entire bonfire with a broom handle, to give wildlife a chance to escape.
- Keep buckets of water nearby, in case of a fire.
- Don’t burn bonfires near fences or sheds.
- Tie back long hair, and avoid loose clothing.
- Make sure bonfire is fully out, before leaving. Don’t leave it to ‘peter out’, pour water on it.
Alternatives to Fireworks
There are stricter laws on fireworks, in that you can’t set them up after 11pm or before 7am apart from holidays like New Year’s Eve. Never let them off near trees, fences or buildings that could catch light.
Fireworks also cause acid rain and release metal particles/toxins to the air that last years, and affect those with breathing problems. Chemicals and dyes fall to the ground and wash into seas, when it rains. Many fireworks involve unsustainable mining.
It’s illegal to use fireworks in the street. You can’t use them if under 18 and they must carry CD mark and be kept in a closed box and lit at arm’s length with a taper (away from flames). Wear gloves (sparklers burn same heat as a welding torch).
If You Must Use Fireworks..
- If you decide after the above that you do use them, at least choose ‘quiet fireworks’ (with less bangs, to avoid scaring pets & wildlife).
- Attend a public display, rather than a private one. This means less fireworks ((never take pets with you). Have them secure at home (below) and ideally have one person stay with them.
- Avoid sky lanterns. The metal spikes left on the ground harm wildlife, and they get get confused with coastal flares, risking lives of coastguards and lifeboat crew. They are also fire hazards (recently several animals in a German zoo died, when one dropped into their enclosure).
- Clean up absolutely everything after you leave.
- According to energy company Ecotricity, white fireworks have fewer chemicals than coloured ones. They also suggest having ground-based fireworks (like Catherine wheels) over air-based ones, so there’s more chance of you being able to find and collect any debris left after firing.
- Never smoke near fireworks.
- Never hold babies or let young children near, while lighting sparklers.
- Never return to a firework, once lit.
- Keep to the local time rules.
Pet Safety on Fireworks Night
Of course the main problem is that it’s not like the old days, when fireworks were only on Bonfire Night and New Year’s Eve. But if you know in advance, Blue Cross has good tips including:
- Walk dogs before the fireworks begin.
- Bring outdoor animals inside if possible, or at least in a garage or shed. Turn enclosures to face the walls. Cover with (breathable) blankets with ventilation to block out bangs.
- Keep dogs and cats inside, and close windows and cat flaps. Draw curtains and put the TV or radio on (just loud enough to block out sounds). Stay with them, and ensure they have safe ID up-to-date (many try to escape in terror). Many animals like a den (say under a low table or bed). Not near hot radiators.
- It’s now believed the old advice to ‘not make a fuss’ or it will make animals worse, has changed. Most say that it’s fine, just don’t look worried yourself, or it could make them worse. Most pets are too terrified to be aware of you fussing.
- Don’t take pets with you to firework displays, they will be terrified, even if quiet. And never tie them up anywhere, as they will likely try to run off, and could choke. Don’t leave dogs in cars (even for a second). Especially not on Fireworks night (or in warm/hot weather).
- It’s illegal to let off fireworks near horses or livestock nearby, or close to buildings due to fire hazards. You must warn farmers in advance. Keep large animals in stables, and have someone watch them.
- Medicines to calm don’t always work. But you may wish to try it, for very bad events. Be wary of ‘natural calming items’ as a few contain scents and essential oils that could make pets sick. Talk to your vet.
- Fill up water bowls. Stressed pets drink more.
- If you have to leave animals alone, then place some of your clothes nearby, as your scent could calm.
- Ask your town council to use quiet fireworks, to stop local pets being scared. Think this is a fruitless exercise? Not so. Peterlee (Sunderland) Town Council has done just that, as their firework display is just as popular. They actually did it to help not just pets, but also elderly residents who were getting upset. Well done, you!
It’s not true that birds are not affected by fireworks. In Arkansas (Kansas), 5000 birds all crashed to the ground during a fireworks display. Blackbirds don’t fly at night, and it was believed that the shock of the firework noise literally ‘shook’ them from their nest, and they all crashed to the ground in fright.