COMMUNITY, Home and Garden

Spring is clean up time, make home fire safety a priority

Less rain, more sunshine, budding trees, longer days: they are all signs that the warmer months are nearing. 

For many, these seasonal hallmarks are reminders to start spring cleaning in and around our homes. 

According to a report from the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office, fire incidents in Marion County increased 33% from 2017-2021. Structure fires increased by 19% and outside fires grew by 75% during the same time period.

As people power up their lawnmowers, rake up debris, touch up chipped paint and take on myriad projects to get their homes and yards ready for the months ahead, local firefighters suggest following these key practices to help minimize the risk of fires and associated hazards.

Properly store and use gasoline.

Firefighters often respond to accidental fires involving the use of petroleum products like gasoline.

In one case, a pre-teen named Scott was tragically burned when he tossed a cup of gasoline onto a burning debris pile. Scott was so badly burned on his face and arms he had to be flown to the burn center in Portland where he underwent a lengthy recovery. 

Firefighters advise us to use gasoline only as motor fuel, never as a cleaner or to break down grease. 

Only store gasoline in a container that is sold for that purpose and never bring it indoors, even in small amounts. Never store gasoline containers in a basement or in the occupied space of a building. Keep them in a detached garage or an outdoor shed. 

Make sure the container is tightly capped when not in use. 

Carefully dispose of rags used with paint and stain.

The oils commonly used in oil-based paints and stains release heat as they dry. If the heat is not released in the air as the rags dry, the heat is trapped, builds up and can cause a fire. 

In this second real-life incident, a homeowner was refinishing hardwood floors in her forever home. At the end of the day, she wadded up the rags used that afternoon and placed them outside on the wooden deck. 

In the middle of the night, the rags burst into flames causing a major fire. Fortunately, she escaped, and firefighters were able to extinguish the fire but not before extensive damage was done to her beautiful home. 

Never leave cleaning rags in a pile. When you’re finished using the rags, take them outside to dry, keeping them well away from the home and other structures. 

Hang rags outside or spread them on the ground and weigh them down so that they don’t blow away. Put dried rags in a metal container, making sure the container is tightly covered. 

Fill the container with a water and detergent solution, which will break down the oils. Keep containers of oily rags in a cool place out of direct sunlight and away from other heat sources. 

Check with the Keizer Fire District or Marion County Fire District 1 for information on how to properly dispose of them.

Keep vegetation and flammable items well away from your home.

Every year, wildfires burn across the Pacific Northwest and the U.S., with more and more people living in communities where wildfires are a real risk. 

Dispose of branches, weeds, leaves, pine needles and grass clippings to reduce fuel for fire.

Remove tree debris and other flammable material from the roof, gutters and deck to help prevent embers from igniting your home.

Remove dead vegetation and other flammable materials, especially within the first five feet of the home.

Move construction material, trash and wood piles at least 30 feet away from the home and other outbuildings.

Clean out your clothes dryer.

Make sure the air exhaust vent pipe for your dryer is not restricted and that the outdoor vent flap will open when the dryer is operating. This includes making sure the outdoor vent flap is not covered by debris.

Move things that can burn, such as boxes, cleaning supplies and clothing away from the dryer. 

Clothes that have come in contact with flammable substances like gasoline, paint thinner or similar solvents should be laid outside to dry then can be washed and dried as usual.

Last but certainly not least, check your smoke alarms to assure they are operating properly. Smoke alarms older than 10 years should be completely replaced. Batteries should be replaced annually unless the detector uses the newer style 10 year battery. Failure to have an operating smoke alarm can lead to a disastrous outcome. 

At 2:30 a.m. on a spring morning, firefighters were called to a house fire caused by flammables too close to a heater. 

Most of the family escaped but the elderly grandfather living with them became confused and lost in the smoke. He perished in the fire and was discovered by firefighters only a few feet from the door leading outside.

The family reported they knew about the smoke alarm battery and intended to replace it the next day. The fire happened that night. Firefighters suggest never sleeping even one night without an operating smoke alarm. 

Check with Keizer Fire District or Marion County Fire District 1 if you need a smoke alarm, they may be able to provide one free of charge to homeowners. Renters should speak with their landlord.

(Submitted by Marion County Fire District Staff)

Contact Keizertimes Staff:
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

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