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One of the most tragic yet preventable disasters that occurs frequently throughout the U.S. is the home structure fire. Home structure fires spread quickly and can become life threatening in a matter of minutes, and an entire home can become engulfed in flames in five minutes. Most conventional construction materials have preventatives which may slow the rate of a fire; however, practicing good fire prevention and awareness can reduce the risk of fire dangers.

In most fires, the heat and smoke can be more dangerous than the actual flames. Inhaling superheated air can sear lung tissue, and smoke may contain poisonous gases that can make you disoriented or drowsy. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, between 2005 and 2009 U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 373,900 home structure fires per year. 

Further statistics from the NFPA Fire Analysis and Research Report concluded1:

  • 92% of all structure fire deaths resulted from home fires
  • On average, seven people died in U.S. fire homes every day
  • 2,650 civilian fire deaths
  • 12,890 civilian fire injuries
  • 7.1 billion dollars in damage
  • 41% of reported home structure fires started in the kitchen which caused more than 1/3 of civilian injuries
  • Smoking was the leading cause of civilian home fire deaths
  • Two-thirds of deaths resulted from fires in homes with no working smoke alarms or no alarms at all


Make a family fire plan - One of the most important aspects of emergency management is planning. This is true even for a single family residence. Reviewing the floor plan of your home with members of your family, and mapping out escape routes in the event of an emergency will ensure everyone knows how to exit the house safely. Make sure all windows can be opened easily from the inside. Once outside the home, have a rally point either at a neighbors house or at a significant landmark that everyone in the family is familiar with. Planning also includes protecting your important documents by scanning them or storing them inside a fire safe.

Install smoke alarms - One of the simplest tools to prevent injury or even death from a home structure fire is the smoke alarm. Smoke alarms should be installed on each level of your home near the bedroom areas, at the top of stairways, at the bottom of enclosed stairways, and near (but not inside) the kitchen. You should have each smoke alarm marked on your family fire plan, and every member of the family should know how to locate, identify, and test your smoke alarms. You should test and clean your smoke alarms once a month and replace its batteries at least once a year. Smoke alarms should be replaced every ten years or immediately if it is found to be defective.

Install A-B-C type fire extinguishers

  • A (paper/wood/cardboard/plastics)
  • B (combustible liquids)
  • C (electrical)

A-B-C type fire extinguishers are readily available at most hardware stores. Install A-B-C fire extinguishers near the kitchen and garage, where they can be readily accessible, just outside the entry doors. Never install a fire extinguisher directly next to or in close proximity to your oven or stove. Make sure everyone in the family knows where each fire extinguisher is in the home and how to operate them. Although each fire extinguisher comes with a quick inspection window, all fire extinguishers should go through routine inspections at a certified service center annually.

Use caution with alternative heating sources - When using light and heating sources such as candles, portable heaters, fire places, or other sources of heat or open flame, make sure to keep flammable materials three feet away. Never leave heaters, candles, cigarettes, etc. unattended

Examine outlets and electrical plugs

  • Do not use extension cords with frayed or exposed wiring
  • Make sure outlets have cover plates and no exposed wiring
  • Make sure wiring does not run under rugs, over nails, or in high traffic areas
  • Do not use cords or appliances with frayed or exposed wires, or loose plugs

Store flammable liquids in approved containers in well-ventilated storage areas

  • Never use flammable liquids indoors
  • Never smoke near flammable liquids
  • Safely discard rags and materials that have been soaked in flammable liquids

For more information about fire safety, please visit the Orange County Fire Authority website at www.ocfa.org.