While there are several ways a fire can start, there’s one thing you need to do if a fire occurs – act quickly. A fire can go from a spark to engulfing flames in no time, so every second counts. Educating yourself now on different types of fires and how to put them out means protecting your family in the future if something does occur.
As a note, while the following scenarios give tips for extinguishing a fire yourself, if the problem is serious or spreads quickly, call your fire department immediately or dial 911.
Wood Burning Fire
Wood burning fires typically stem from a fireplace or fire pit and are categorized as Class A fires – or a fire that uses flammable material as its fuel sources. Wood, paper, trash, fabric and plastics are also common sources of Class A fires.
If a fire originating from your indoor fireplace gets out of hand, here are some dos and don’ts on how to put out a wood burning fire:
- Do: Use a fireplace poker to spread out the wood and embers. This cools the fire and flattens the flames.
- Do: Extinguish the flames using the ash from your embers once they cool down.
- Do: Put a layer of banking soda over the ash once the fire is out to eliminate any remaining embers. This adds an additional layer that prevents oxygen from reaching the embers.
- Don’t: Remove the burning logs. Doing so increases the risk of the fire spreading to other parts of your home as you attempt to remove it.
- Don’t: Douse the flames with water in a fireplace or in an enclosed room unless this is a serious emergency and there’s no other option. Using water creates massive amounts of smoke and can cause steam burns. It can also damage your fireplace leading to cracks and heaves due to the sudden change in temperature.
For an outdoor fire pit:
- Extinguish the fire with water. Compared to fireplaces, outdoor fire pits are often in more open spaces which allows for steam or smoke to go away when extinguished.
- Spread the wood and embers to create ash, similar to how you would handle a fireplace fire.
- Put sand over the burning embers. Make sure you spread a thin layer of sand on the embers to prevent them from having access to oxygen. Adding too much sand can cause the embers to remain lit underneath, which poses a fire hazard if they’re uncovered by wind.
- Use a Class A fire extinguisher if the fire gets out of hand. If the steps above do not take effect and the fire appears to be out of control or in danger of spreading, call 911 for help.
Fires caused by natural gas, kerosene, propane or gasoline are categorized as Class B fires. These types of fires are caused by flammable liquids and best extinguished by smothering. Do not use water to put out a gas fire. It will only make the situation worse. Use a Class B fire extinguisher instead which is made to put out a gas fire.
For a fire caused by natural gas leaking from a household appliance, after the fire is controlled, shut off the gas flow on the appliance and notify your utility company. Do not turn back on the appliance until the situation has been properly handled.
Speaking of appliances, if they’re connected to electrical outlets, it’s possible for them to catch fire. There are specific steps you can take to handle a fire resulting from a home wiring failure, worn out breaker box, appliance malfunction or frayed electrical cord.
Here’s how you can put out an electrical fire:
- If possible, unplug the appliance. Doing so will help reduce the risk of the fire spreading while also ensuring the appliance does not pose additional risk to those attempting to put out the electrical fire.
- Make sure you’re using a fire extinguisher that has a ‘C’ on its label. This means its effective for eliminating Class C fires. There are different kinds of fire extinguishers, with the Class C fire extinguisher made specifically for electrical fires that come from outlets or other electrical components.
- If the electrical fire is small, smother the flames with baking soda. This will reduce the oxygen that the fire has access to, potentially putting it out. However, if the electrical fire starts to grow out of control, call 911 for help.
There are also the home appliances that aren’t connected to an electrical outlet but can still cause fire, like your oven, stove and microwave. These appliances are often located in the kitchen, where high temperatures place them at an increased risk of catching on fire.
There are some specific steps you should follow if you’re want to know how to put out an appliance fire:
To put out an oven fire:
- Leave the oven door closed. This prevents oxygen from fanning the flames and helps avoid flames from reach other areas of your kitchen.
- Turn off the oven. This will prevent the fire from spreading to the outlet where it can quickly spread throughout your home.
- Do not put water on the flames. If the oven is plugged in, this will cause electricity to electrocute the person throwing the water on the flames.
- The oven fire should go out on its own if you leave the oven door closed, but it the fire gets out of control, use a Class C fire extinguisher. This will help smother the oven fire and help put it out.
To put out a stove fire:
- Make sure all burners are turned off. Having a burner on will only help fuel the stove fire, making it harder to put out the flames.
- Move everything away from the stovetop area and unplug appliances near the stove. Less items near the oven means that the stove fire has less items to potentially spread to.
- Like an oven, do not use water to douse the flames. Electricity travels through water quickly and may electrocute you.
- If the flames don’t go away on their own, use a Class C fire extinguisher.
If a fire occurs in your microwave, unplug the appliance or turn off the kitchen’s circuit breaker. Putting out a microwave fire is similar to an oven or stove, mainly ensuring that the appliance is unplugged and that it has no nearby objects where it can spread to. Using a Class C fire extinguisher is recommended to put out the fire since it has a greater chance of putting out the root cause of the fire.
Cooking fires are the top cause of home fires and injuries. Of these fires, the majority begin with oil becoming too hot, boiling and eventually turning from smoke into flames. These are called grease fire, or Class K fires.
Here’s how to put out a grease fire:
- Cover the fire immediately. You can use a lid or cookie sheet to put out a grease fire. Leave this cover on until the flames are gone and the metal is cool to the touch. This helps prevent oxygen from continuing to fuel the fire.
- Turn off the heat source. Turning off the stove or burners used will prevent the grease or oil from continuing to be heated. While this will help, do not remove the pan from the stove. You may drop the pan or cause burning grease to spread throughout your home, placing yourself at risk of harm.
- Do not pour water on the fire. It can cause the grease to splash and the flames to spread. This is caused by the water vaporizing in the intense heat, causing grease to splash as the water vapor escapes.
- Using a Class K fire extinguisher should be your last resort. A grease fire can be difficult to put out without the proper tools. If you don’t have a class K fire extinguisher, call 911.
What should you do if you can’t extinguish a fire?
If a fire becomes uncontrollable, leave your house immediately. Close the door as you leave to try to contain the flames. Once you’re safe, call 911 and do not go back inside your home until you’re told by a professional – like a firefighter – that the area is safe for reentry.
Fires spread quickly and failing to act quickly could lead to greater damage to your home, such as significant damage to your home’s structure. However, fire damage is not the only concern, since smoke damage and soot can also spread in your home which will lead to ongoing issues with odors and corrosion to different surfaces and items throughout your home.
Recovering from fire damage to your property
Fire damage can destroy not just your home’s structure but also your cherished possessions. Dealing with the loss is too great to handle alone. Our home fire damage restoration experts will do whatever they can to get your home back to normal. We’ll work with you to recover what can be recovered, while ensuring that you have the support you need during the process.
Find a ServiceMaster Restore location near you and see how we can help you recover after a fire.