"An enormous amount of fires are not reported at all. Most are small fires in the home ... and are extinguished by the occupant."
They do their best, but fire spreads with amazing speed. You only have 2 to 3 minutes to extinguish a fire before it grows out of control! It takes time to reach 911 and dispatch the fire department. Distance, traffic, rain, snow and ice are all factors which can slow the arrival of help. Also, 80% of all firefighters are volunteers, each of whom must first be contacted and then have to travel from their respective locations (home, work, etc.) to the scene of the fire. It takes time.
· A FIRE DOUBLES IN SIZE EVERY MINUTE
· 3 to 4 minutes - a fire can totally involve a house
· 5 to 10 minutes - a mobile home can burn to the ground
· 4 to 20 minutes - range of 911 response times
The Visalia Fire Department's goal for fire unit response time is 3-5 minutes based on Fire Station placement.
|13%||Arson (Includes fires started by children)|
|29%||Other (appliances, electrical, etc.)|
|23.7%||Cooking Area (includes grilling areas)|
Smoke detectors are invaluable, but they are a warning, not a solution. According to the "Fire in the United States", "Smoke detectors are thought to account for a significant decrease in reported fires and fire deaths since the mid 1970's ... the detectors allow early detection and extinguishment, so that fires are not reported".
Unfortunately, "In only 35% of all residential fires, where smoke detector performance was reported, did a detector operate in the fire ... this is somewhat disturbing since there is widespread belief that an operating detector will save lives."
Most fires in the home are ordinary combustible, Class A fires. Many others which may begin as an grease fire (B), or electrical short (C), quickly spread to walls, cabinets and other combustibles which then spread as a far more serious Class A fire.
|A||Water||Ordinary Combustibles: wood, paper, cloth, clothes, etc.|
|B||Chemical||Flammable Liquids: oil, grease and gasoline|
Having a fire extinguisher is important, but they do have serious limitations. A typical fire extinguisher found in the home is a 10 lb. rated ABC extinguisher filled with a dry chemical, usually sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Liquid flammables (B), and electrical (C). fires should be extinguished with dry chemicals and never with water.
Unfortunately, the 10 lb. rating usually applies only to BC fires and drops to a mere 1 lb. rating when the extinguisher is used for Class A fires. In other words, the equivalent of about 1 glass of water. Hardly enough to extinguish even the smallest fire.
Ordinary combustibles (Class A fires) are best extinguished with water - lots of water. Water can soak down a mattress, a wall, woodwork, and even clothing in way that dry chemical agents simply can not do. The limitations of a small dry chemical extinguisher include:
The NFPA says: "Many fires are small at origin and may be extinguished by the use of fire extinguishers or small hose streams. Portable fire extinguishing equipment can represent an important segment of a home fire protection program. If a fire starts in your home:
Sources: The quotations and data provided above have come from:
1. FIRE in the
2. NFPA 10R Portable Fire Extinguishing Equipment In Family Dwellings published by the National Fire Protection Association, 1192 Edition