Entries in Fire (6)


Household Danger: Product That Spontaneously Combusts

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Linseed oil, a common wood polish and sealant, can burn your house down in minutes if it’s not handled properly.

The product can spontaneously combust and mishandling it can be as simple as tossing some rags and newspapers, soaked in linseed oil, in a box, as ABC News did for an experiment.

Mike and Sherri Prentiss of Cincinnati know the dangers of linseed oil firsthand.  They left some rags in a bundle.

“I had put it sort of folded on itself in to a corner of the garage,” Sherri Prentiss told ABC News. “That was about 5 p.m., and by 9 p.m. that night our garage was on fire,” she said. “There were flames shooting 30 feet into the sky.”

In ABC's experiment, a thermal imager revealed glow-in-the-dark spots where the linseed-soaked rags had reached 110 degrees after an hour. After two hours, there was smoke curling from the newspapers and rags. And after three hours there were flames.

Linseed oil is safe for wood because you spread it out, but left wadded up on rags or paper the oil is so concentrated that it heats up as it evaporates. One of America’s biggest high-rise fires, in Philadelphia in 1991, was caused by workers who didn’t clean up linseed oil properly.  Three firefighters died.

So how can you protect yourself?

Some experts say spread linseed-oil soaked rags flat on your driveway until they are totally dry. To be even safer, you can fill a metal can with water, put the rags in, and then seal it up tightly.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fire Safety: Seven Life-Saving Preventive Measures

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A devastating house fire killed three young girls and their grandparents early Christmas morning in Stamford, Conn. Authorities say the three-alarm blaze engulfed the Victorian home and tore through the upper floors.

It's a tragedy all too common during this time of year.  Most homes built since the 1980s burn up to six times faster than older homes because they are made with synthetic materials that are cheaper and sturdier, but also more flammable.

Fire officials advise that if the smoke detector is sounding and it takes more than a cup of water to put out the blaze, the fire fighting should be left to the professionals.

But the most important action families can take happens well in advance of any fire.  ABC News spoke with Jim Bullock, a retired deputy chief from the New York City Fire Department and owner of NY Fire Safety Institute, who recommended every family take these seven preventive measures:

1. Have a Plan -- Every family should have an evacuation plan and a designated meeting place to go after leaving the house.  If the home has more than one story, each room should have a way to reach the ground without having to use the stairs; for many rooms rope ladders may be necessary.

2. Put Smoke Detectors Outside Bedrooms -- Smoke detectors should be placed in the hallway outside of the bedrooms because they will be triggered sooner, allowing for more evacuation time.  If the bedrooms are located in different areas of the house or on a particularly long hallway, multiple smoke detectors may be needed.  It is also vital that smoke alarms are checked regularly to verify they are operational.

3. Shut Bedroom Doors at Night -- Every bedroom door should be closed at night.  In case of a fire, that simple step slows the speed at which the smoke and poisonous gasses enter the rooms.

4. Use Candles Infrequently -- Open flames start the most house fires.  Candles burn at 1,000 degrees and if one ignites a blanket or pillow, within three or four minutes an entire room can be consumed by flames.  Bullock recommends using electronic candles instead.

5. Place Fire Extinguishers in Areas with Open Flames -- In most houses, fire extinguishers should be placed in the kitchen and the boiler room, or any area with an open flame.  If one of the residents of the house smokes, an extinguisher should be placed in the room where that person smokes the most.  It is important the adults in the house know how to properly use the extinguisher prior to a fire.

6. Throw Away Christmas Trees After Christmas -- Christmas trees become extremely dangerous when they dry out and should be disposed of as soon as that happens.  A tree can set an entire room on fire in three to four minutes.  Bullock said fire officials say Christmas trees are “like a gasoline can in the middle of your living room.”

7. Extension Cords Are Temporary
-- Extension cords are intended for temporary use only, if a permanent solution is needed, rewire and add an outlet in the place it is needed.  Additionally, do not connect multiple extension cords or power strips together.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Holidays Most Dangerous Time for House Fires

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The next two weeks are the most dangerous time of the year for house fires, according to fire safety experts. From Dec. 23 through Dec. 25, and Dec. 26 through New Year’s, the chances of a candlelit fire soar more than 300 percent.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), new homes -- built with and stuffed full of synthetic materials -- burn up six times faster than older homes built 50 years ago.

According to FEMA, fire deaths have been down two percent in the past five years, but deaths from accidental fires have gone up 18 percent. Cooking fires are up 16 percent.

While synthetic materials have made household construction and products sturdier and cheaper, they’re also more flammable. And technology has been slow to respond. Mattresses, however, once the chief killer in fires, seem to be an exception. They are now designed to burn more slowly.  Some mattresses ABC News tested at the Underwriters Labs were nearly self-extinguishing.

But the real lifesaver in a fire, Tom Chapin, vice president of corporate research for Underwriters Lab says, is awareness.  A  smoke detector with working batteries is likely the best bet.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fire Erupts on Florida Woman’s Face During Routine Surgery

Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock(CRESTVIEW, Fla.) -- A Florida woman was rushed by helicopter to an Alabama burn center after her face caught fire during routine surgery.

Kim Grice, a 29-year-old mother of three, was having cysts removed from her head at an outpatient surgery center in Crestview, Fla., when the flash fire erupted.

“A flash fire is basically a fire that flashes up and then goes out,” Crestview Fire Department Chief Joseph Traylor told ABC News.  “The fire was already out when our staff arrived.”

Grice was treated at the North Okaloosa Medical Center before being flown 90 miles to the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Ala., with burns to her face and neck.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but surgical fires are usually sparked by heat -- often from tools like lasers -- and then fueled by alcohol, surgical drapes and oxygen.  Grice was wearing a non-rebreathable oxygen mask, according to Traylor.

In October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration launched an initiative to curb surgical fires through increasing awareness and promoting risk reduction practices.

“There are between 550 and 650 surgical fires a year,” said Mark Bruley, vice president for accident and forensic investigation for the ECRI Institute, adding that fewer than 30 of them result in patient injuries.

The frequency of fires is on par with other surgical mishaps, like wrong-site surgery or retained instruments, according to the ECRI Institute.

Grice was in stable condition and talking to her family when she was transferred to the Alabama burn center, according to Rachel Neighbors, a spokeswoman for the North Okaloosa Medical Center.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Afraid of Fire? You’re Not Alone

Michael Blann/Digital Vision(CINCINNATI) -- October is Fire Prevention Month, and a new survey commissioned for the occasion reveals that many Americans don’t feel comfortable putting out a blaze.

A survey of 1,009 adults commissioned by the Cintas Corporation, a manufacturer of first-aid and fire safety products, finds 19 percent of respondents would be afraid to put out a fire.

The survey found that 26 percent of women don’t feel comfortable putting out a fire, compared to 11 percent of men.

Seventy-seven percent of Americans would feel more comfortable using a fire extinguisher to put out a fire if they had training.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


10 Tips to Avoid Fires, Injuries While Barbecuing

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Every year, 7,000 Americans are injured while using backyard barbecue grills.  It's usually a case of good products used incorrectly.

ABC News teamed up with Underwriters Laboratories, the non-profit company that puts the UL mark on products it has tested for safety, to highlight the most common mistakes and key safety tips.  Here are the top 10:


1. Keep your grill at least 10 feet away from your house.  Farther is even better.  This includes portions attached to your house like carports, garages, and porches.

2. Clean your grill regularly.  If you allow grease and fat to build up on your grill, they provide more fuel for a fire.

3. Check for gas leaks.  You can make sure no gas is leaking from your gas grill by making a solution of half liquid dish soap and half water and rubbing it on the hoses and connections.  Then, turn the gas on (with the grill lid open.)  If the soap forms large bubbles, that's a sign that the hoses have tiny holes or that the connections are not tight enough.

4. Keep decorations away from your grill.  Decorations like hanging baskets, pillows and umbrellas provide fuel for a fire.  To make matters worse, today's decor is mostly made of artificial fibers that burn fast and hot, making this tip even more important.

5. Keep a spray bottle of water handy.  That way, if you have a minor flare-up you can spray it with the water to instantly calm it.

6. Keep a fire extinguisher within a couple steps of your grill.


7. Turn on the gas while your grill lid is closed.  It causes gas to build up inside your grill, and when you do light it and open it, a fireball can explode in your face.

8. Leave a grill unattended.  Fires double in size every minute.

9. Overload your grill with food.  This applies especially to fatty meats.  If too much fat drips on the flames at once, it can cause a large flare-up that could light nearby things on fire.

10. Use a grill indoors.  In addition to the fire hazard, grills release carbon monoxide, the deadly colorless, odorless gas.  That gas needs to vent in fresh air or it can kill you, your family and pets.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio