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pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
1/14/20 8:36 a.m.

I got a call last night at 2am from my parents that there had been a massive fire at their house. Thankfully they were not home, they were at their place in Florida. I raced over hoping that it was someone trying to scam them or something, but the fire trucks told a different story. Looks to have been centered in the kitchen, the fire marshal said it seemed to be electrical, not natural gas. The house is boarded up so I have not been inside, but the good news is that it seems to have been limited to the kitchen area and most of the rest of the house was spared, save for smoke and water damage.

It made me check all of my smoke detectors and we will be reviewing our evacuation plan with our son again this evening. I will also be checking fire extinguishers and potential issues in the garage, like moving my jugs of gasoline to the shed. I hope this never happens to anyone, please, have a plan and be prepared.

 

Woody
Woody MegaDork
1/14/20 8:44 a.m.

Glad nobody got hurt.

When you talk to your son about the evacuation plan, make sure that you choose a meeting place that he will remember and that is safely away from the house, like a swing set, shed or big tree. That way you can find each other easily once you are out of the house. It helps avoid confusion and the temptation to go back in.

Never, ever go back in.

Duke
Duke MegaDork
1/14/20 9:33 a.m.

I'm glad the damage wasn't complete and definitely glad that no one was hurt!

 

Driven5
Driven5 UltraDork
1/14/20 9:56 a.m.

Thanks for the reminder that we also still need to buy a couple of fire escape ladders.

dculberson
dculberson MegaDork
1/14/20 10:02 a.m.

Dang, sorry to hear about your parent's house but glad it was unoccupied.

My kids bedroom is ground level with two windows. I had a thought that I might need to bust through those windows to get to them in an emergency. What should I keep handy to do that? Maybe I could keep it in the attached garage.

@Woody: point taken, but if my kids are inside I'm going in to get them. Would a respirator help? Gas mask? I have both and could keep them convenient.

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 MegaDork
1/14/20 10:24 a.m.
dculberson said:

@Woody: point taken, but if my kids are inside I'm going in to get them.

This.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
1/14/20 1:29 p.m.
1988RedT2 said:
dculberson said:

@Woody: point taken, but if my kids are inside I'm going in to get them.

This.

Sadly, all too often that ends up with the headline, "Father perishes while trying to save children".  Best to have a plan to get them out in the first place.

 

My sister and her husband died in a house fire some years back, chances are smoke detectors would have saved them.  Make sure yours are working.

SVreX
SVreX MegaDork
1/14/20 1:41 p.m.

We all think we could survive. We grossly underestimate the intensity of the heat, the speed of being overcome by smoke, and the extent of the confusion we would be experiencing. 

I’ve been in a couple fires. It’s terrifying. 

Never go back. I love my kids as much as anyone, but in the event of a fire, there is no way I could guess where they were. Bathroom?  Floor of the hallway headed out?  Already outside frightened hiding behind the garage?  Going back in is a good way to potentially leave your kids orphans. 

Instead, I spent a lot of time teaching them. My kids knew how to get out, how to stuff rags under a door, how to smash a window with a chair, how to use the escape ladders, and how to reunite with me the minute they were out. We practiced it. 

I even took them to fire stations to talk with firemen, wear the oxygen masks, and see test fires. 

Don't be a hero. Be prepared. 

Floating Doc
Floating Doc SuperDork
1/14/20 1:54 p.m.

We've done all of this, and the Nest smoke detectors self test monthly, but this is a good reminder that you're never too well prepared.

Family meeting coming up. I need to also update my fire extinguishers.

Edit: I also have a bunch of gasoline stored for my generator. The garage is a separate building, and it's in a shed attached to the back of the garage.

If I had somewhere on the property to put build a separate shed for the gasoline storage I would do it.

Floating Doc
Floating Doc SuperDork
1/14/20 1:57 p.m.

I reread my post, realized that I never extended my condolences for the property damage, and relief that no one was hurt.

Thanks for posting, at least in that way some good will come out of this.

Woody
Woody MegaDork
1/14/20 2:13 p.m.
dculberson said:

@Woody: point taken, but if my kids are inside I'm going in to get them. Would a respirator help? Gas mask? I have both and could keep them convenient.

No, and they will melt to your face as you are dying.

Neither will help you manage the heat. The "air" that you inhale will be several hundred degrees and will immediately burn your lungs. Not a little, but a lot.

Woody
Woody MegaDork
1/14/20 2:13 p.m.

In reply to SVreX :

Very well put.

Woody
Woody MegaDork
1/14/20 2:18 p.m.

I can't express this strongly enough: Do not go back inside once you are outside.

Literally, within one minute of the start of a fire, the smoke is banked down to the floor. The only way I can see anything at all is to lay my face on the floor. You have about four to six inches of visibility above the floor. Most of the time, you can't even see the fire until you start putting it out.

The last dead guy that I carried out of a burning house went back in for his daughter. She was already safe outside.

Woody
Woody MegaDork
1/14/20 2:21 p.m.

One of the most important things that you can do is sleep with your bedroom doors closed.

 

Robbie
Robbie MegaDork
1/14/20 2:25 p.m.

Ug. Yeah. Easy to think your loved ones are still inside when they aren't. 

Very solid point, and need for a good plan.

mtn
mtn MegaDork
1/14/20 2:37 p.m.
Woody said:

One of the most important things that you can do is sleep with your bedroom doors closed.

 

We really need to work on this in our household. Do you think that a doggy door in bedroom doors would significantly decrease the safety aspect? It is the only thing stopping us now. 

 

Also, other than working smoke detectors, doors closed, and a plan are there any other obvious safety tips? Should I get the emergency gas cans out from underneath the bed? (gas cans was a joke, but I do want other obvious tips)

SVreX
SVreX MegaDork
1/14/20 2:38 p.m.

I was in a controlled fire when making the movie “Fireproof”. Even that was terrifying. 

The speed of acceleration, the thickness of the smoke, the toxins in the smoke... I had this continuous sense that we could lose control of it in a heartbeat, and that it would be completely out of control in seconds. 

When we finally let it burn... yep. Only a few seconds before the entire building was engulfed, with no accelerants. 

I got over my thinking I could be a hero really quickly. 

Woody
Woody MegaDork
1/14/20 2:42 p.m.

In reply to mtn :

I don't think that the doggy door is a huge problem. It's reasonably cool down there, probably less than 200 degrees.

Keep your hallways and stairs clear. Don't put stuff on the stairs.

dculberson
dculberson MegaDork
1/14/20 2:46 p.m.
Woody said:

The last dead guy that I carried out of a burning house went back in for his daughter. She was already safe outside.

Thanks for putting it in blunt words for me to understand.

We do close our bedroom doors at night - good to know that helps prevent fire spread. All smoke detectors are functional and linked. I need to work on an evacuation plan and some drills. Our house is nightmarishly large and convoluted and the thought of a fire fighter trying to navigate it while full of smoke is hair raising. We have three stairwells between two levels, a dumb waiter, plenums galore, etc. I can't imagine how quickly it could go up and how bad hunting around in it in smoke would be.

Marjorie Suddard
Marjorie Suddard General Manager
1/14/20 2:48 p.m.

Wow. Pinchy, glad your parents weren't there. Woody and Paul, thanks for the (completely terrifying but probably needed) education.

We had a recent kitchen fire, too: The circuit board on our electric range, which I knew was getting a little wonky (the LED display was losing segments), burst into flames. Heard a "pop!" while I was in the kitchen, looked over and there was black smoke pouring out of the back of the thing followed by fire. Ran into the garage and turned off the breaker, so other than a stinky kitchen and some required backsplash cleaning, got off only having to buy a new stove. Hate to think what would've happened if I hadn't been there.

tl;dr: If your suspect the electronics in your kitchen appliances are going, repair or replace immediately. Only after Googling after the fact did I learn this is an incredibly common source of ignition.

Margie

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
1/14/20 3:09 p.m.

Good to hear they weren't home and the damage might not be too bad.  

I really need to get my house sorted out. If there was a fire I'd be dead before the smoke detector went off due to all of the fuel that is.... everywhere. 

mtn
mtn MegaDork
1/14/20 3:22 p.m.
Marjorie Suddard said:

Wow. Pinchy, glad your parents weren't there. Woody and Paul, thanks for the (completely terrifying but probably needed) education.

We had a recent kitchen fire, too: The circuit board on our electric range, which I knew was getting a little wonky (the LED display was losing segments), burst into flames. Heard a "pop!" while I was in the kitchen, looked over and there was black smoke pouring out of the back of the thing followed by fire. Ran into the garage and turned off the breaker, so other than a stinky kitchen and some required backsplash cleaning, got off only having to buy a new stove. Hate to think what would've happened if I hadn't been there.

tl;dr: If your suspect the electronics in your kitchen appliances are going, repair or replace immediately. Only after Googling after the fact did I learn this is an incredibly common source of ignition.

Margie

Back in February we had a similar occurance when the dishwasher circuit board caught on fire. If we ever remodel the kitchen, I want to have a whole-kitchen switch to turn everything except the fridge off. Not sure if that is possible or not. At minimum, I want the dishwasher, the oven, and the microwave on their own switch if I can't get a whole-kitchen switch. Electrician will probably think I'm nuts when I ask for that.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
1/14/20 3:26 p.m.

In reply to mtn :

That wouldn't be too hard to do.  A sub-panel fed from the main panel through a contactor. Your switch opens the contactor and kills the power to the circuits in the sub-panel.  I've designed similar systems for pharma labs. 

Robbie
Robbie MegaDork
1/14/20 3:27 p.m.

In reply to mtn :

If appliances didn't all have a stupid clock that blinks at you until you set the time, you could just install wifi outlets and have an Alexa routine turn them all on or off by command or at certain times of day.

Might not be as easy for a 240v range, but would work for the rest.

SVreX
SVreX MegaDork
1/14/20 3:37 p.m.

In reply to mtn :

Seems like overkill, but you could do it now with the breakers. 

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