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7 Summer Fire Prevention Tips for Homeowners

Sunny, warmer days are on the way for much of the U.S. as summer approaches, but now is no time for homeowners to grow weary of taking fire safety measures.

Summer is packed with opportunities for fun to fly – and, unfortunately, for dangerous flames to spark. From campfires to portable grills, lightning to fireworks, the season is one where homeowners should be vigilant about avoiding costly damage and insurance claims.

ServiceMaster DSI believes that every day is a day to be better prepared. There are seven fire hazard types you should be aware of in the following months. Practice the fire safety tips below to prevent summer fire accidents.

1. Campfire, Bonfire and Fire Pit Safety

Roasting marshmallows or hot dogs around a fire might highlight a summer night with family and friends.

However, before you begin toasting those treats, make sure you’re following proper fire safety protocols to keep flames under control.

First, check the wind conditions before building a campfire or using a fire pit. Do not build a fire in windy weather, as the wind could blow sparks into surrounding brush or property and start a fire. Ensure the ground you build on is level, and the fire is 10 to 20 feet away from structures or plants.

Second, operate a fire pit or bonfire only in an open area – never beneath a building overlay or an enclosed space. Use a screen if possible while burning.

The type of firewood you use in your campfire, bonfire or pit also makes a difference. Seasoned hardwood, such as oak, is best to burn as it tends to give off fewer sparks. Construction lumbers such as plywood and MDF, on the other hand, are treated with chemical resins that emit toxic fumes and should never be burned.

Lastly, always extinguish the flames fully when you quench the campfire for the night. The fire should be cold before you leave it. Remember, if it is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave.

2. Grilling Safety

Data from the National Fire Protection Association shows U.S. fire departments responded to an annual average of 10,600 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues.

Before firing up the grill this summer, you’ll first want to clean the grill with soapy water. 

With gas grills, you should also check for leaks before use. To test for leaks, mix equal parts dish soap and water, then brush the solution onto your gas tank and line. Slowly turn on the gas. If bubbles form, you have a leak; you should not use a gas grill until all leaks are repaired. If you smell gas while cooking, immediately step away from the grill and call the fire department.

As with gas grills, charcoal grills should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. According to the NFPA, charcoal grills should be ignited only with charcoal starter fluid. Store the fluid away from the reach of children and away from heat sources.

3. Severe Weather and Fire

Severe weather brings its own risks, but did you know it can also lead to fires?

U.S. local fire departments responded to an estimated average of 22,600 fires per year that were started by lightning. These fires caused an average per year of nine deaths, 53 injuries and $451 million in direct property damage, says the NFPA. While it varies by region, lightning-related fires are more common from June through August.

It may not be possible to prevent lightning from striking, but you can help keep yourself safe from getting injured during a storm. If you hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning. You should immediately seek shelter in a building with a roof. Once inside, turn off wired computers and phones that put you in direct contact with electricity. You may use a cell phone, but avoid being around water (bathing, doing laundry and dishwashing included). 

4. Electrical Hazards 

FEMA identifies several types of fire risks after a storm: Poorly maintained portable generators; appliances exposed to water; debris near severed electrical wires and transformers; damaged or downed utility lines; and exposed electrical outlets and wiring. Prepare your home before severe weather hits, and maintain caution if these issues arise in the wake of storm damage.

If your electricity goes off due to severe weather, your backup plan for emergency lighting should not be candles. Candles are open flames and can quickly spark a residential fire. Instead, use flashlights and stock up on extra batteries. 

5. Fireworks Safety

Fireworks can be hazardous if not handled properly, causing injury and property damage. When celebrating July 4th, be sure to follow these safety protocols:

  • Obey all laws regarding the use of fireworks. Local news outlets can help keep you informed as the holiday nears.

  • Know your fireworks; read the cautionary labels before igniting.

  • Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.

  • Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak in water.

  • Always have a bucket of water and a water hose nearby.

  • Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and placing them in a metal trash can away from any building until the next day.

  • Be aware of your safety when lighting fireworks and that of your neighbors’. Even small, falling debris can land on your neighbor’s property and start a house or grass fire.

6. Appliances and the Heat

Summertime heat is hard on appliances that may be kept in a garage or away from air conditioning. Appliances such as refrigerators and freezers should have the manufacturer recommended clearance between the sides, top and back of walls, cabinetry and ceilings. And use extension cords safely; maxing them out is a fire hazard.

7. Flammables and the Heat

Storing gasoline at home to operate lawnmowers, chainsaws and so on is a sensible idea for maintaining your house. But how do you store the gasoline?

The best place to store highly flammable liquids such as gasoline is in a well-ventilated area away from the house. Choose somewhere without nearby electrical equipment (water heater, clothes dryer, furnace, etc). According to the National Ag Safety Database, the heat of the summer sun can cause evaporation, so avoid direct sunlight and hot locations. 

Additionally, oil-soaked rags should be disposed of properly. Hot summers can cause vapors and gasses to build up and combust. 

Ready to Respond

Using these practical tips can help you prevent costly home damages. At ServiceMaster DSI, we hope you do not experience property damage. Should the unexpected happen and a fire breaks out, we are ready to respond 24/7/365. Our trained, local crews and knowledgeable staff will guide you through the process of fire damage restoration, giving you peace of mind. Call ServiceMaster DSI anytime at 844-413-3130. ​