How to Prevent House Fires with Effective Spring Cleaning

Brad LackeyFire Damage, Fire Damage Prevention

Spring is in the air and with it comes a desire to renew and refresh ourselves, our lives, and our homes. What better time to get rid of old, needless stuff and make the home bright and cheery, afterServiceMaster by Restoration Contractors fire and smoke damage restoration all – in the spring, usually there are plenty of redundant items accumulated over the year in every household and people are more likely to find the energy and motivation to deal with them. It’s the perfect time for sprucing up the home and starting with a clean slate – which turns spring cleaning into a prominent cleansing ritual that has both practical and symbolic meaning.
There is, however, still another key benefit to spring cleaning – preventing house fires. The annual cleaning ritual is meant to make the home tidier, fresher, and healthier – but if approached properly, it can result in a safer living environment as well.
Spring cleaning provides the perfect opportunity to check the house and yard for unsafe conditions and fire hazards and considerably reduce the risk of a residential fire. Here is how to achieve this goal and ensure not only the pristine condition of your home, but also its fire safety:

Get Rid of Clutter

Removing clutter is the essence of spring cleaning – it feels so satisfying and liberating to get rid of the useless stuff that has accumulated in your home during the long winter months and give your living space a breath of fresh air. But that’s not all – decluttering can help reduce the risk of fire in the home as well. The fewer items there are around, the smaller the risk of something catching fire and/or of flames spreading quickly should a fire occur.
So, when spring cleaning your home, be sure to:
• Remove stacks of old newspapers and magazines and take them to a recycling center (paper is one of the most flammable materials in the home);
• Clear out old clothing and linens, tissue and wrapping paper, and other combustible items which pile up in closets, drawers, or cabinets and pose a fire hazard to the home;
• Provide plenty of free space around household appliances and heating devices;
• Check if stairways, doors, and any other exits out of your home are easily accessible and completely free of clutter – there should be nothing that can block your way out or delay your escape in the event of a fire;
• Clean the basement, attic, garage, shed, and other storage areas in your property of useless old items and materials that can fuel a fire;
• Remove piles of trash and debris from outdoor areas around your home.

Clean Major Appliances

Cleaning the household appliances should be a major task in your spring cleaning checklist:
1) Make sure all the air ducts and vent pipes in your home are clean and not restricted in any way.
2) Make sure all appliances are properly connected and grounded.
3) Check for water leaks near electrical appliances.
4) Pay extra attention to the stove:
• Carefully clean any built-up grease from the oven and stovetop;
• Keep flammable items (wooden utensils, food packaging, towels, oven mitts, etc.) away from the stove.
5) Be mindful of the clothes dryer:
• Thoroughly clean the lint trap – failure to clear lint from the filter is the leading cause of home clothes dryer fires. Lint traps should be cleaned before and after each dryer use but spring cleaning is a good time to put some extra effort into the task;
• Clean out the compartment that you pull the trap out of as lint can build up there too and create a potential danger to your home;
• Remove any lint that may have accumulated in the vent pipe;
• Keep the area around your dryer clear of flammable items like cardboard boxes, clothing, and cleaning supplies.
6) Inspect the furnace filter to see if it needs to be cleaned or replaced.
Good to remember: It is a good idea to have your chimney and fireplace professionally cleaned after the end of the wood-burning season.

To ensure fireplace safety, you’re also strongly advised to:
1. Regularly clean the firebox;
2. Never burn cardboard, trash, or debris in the fireplace;
3. Never use gasoline, charcoal lighter fluid, or other fuel to light your fireplace – use a match or commercial firelighter to start the fire;
4. Scoop ashes in a covered metal container and keep it at least ten feet away from your home and any other buildings. Never mix embers and ash with other trash;
5. Keep the fireplace mantel clear of hanging items and decorations that may accidentally catch fire when the flames grow high;
6. Keep any flammable materials at least three feet away from the fireplace.

Inspect the Electrical System

Spring cleaning provides a good opportunity to check for frayed or damaged power cords, electrical outlets, fuses, or breakers:
• Organize electrical cords and power strips;
• Inspect cords and outlets for cracks, chips, or exposed wires. Make any necessary repairs or replacements without delay;
• Make sure no electrical outlets or power strips are blocked or located too close to paper items or other flammable items;
• Make sure no extension cords are running across doorways (where they’re more likely to get damaged) or under rugs or carpets (which could easily catch fire if there is a spark in the cord);
• Be careful not to overload the outlets – consider using power strips equipped with internal overload protection (they will shut off when overloaded, preventing potential problems).
Good to know: Battery posts that come in contact with metal can create enough heat to start a fire – so, batteries stored in drawers and surrounded by metal objects (paper clips, coins, etc.) and flammable items increase the risk of fire in the home. It is, therefore, recommendable to keep batteries in their original packaging until it’s time to use them.

Check Fire Safety Devices

Spring is the perfect time of the year to inspect your fire protection equipment and clean the safety devices:
• Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for expired devices or low batteries – the batteries need to be changed once a year, while the smoke detector itself should be replaced after ten years and the carbon monoxide detector – after seven;
• Test out all smoke or carbon monoxide detectors in your home to make sure they are functioning properly – working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a house fire in half, so make sure there are smoke detectors installed in every bedroom and on each level of the home and remember to test them frequently;
• Make sure there is a working fire extinguisher on every level of the home;
• Inspect the condition of the fire sprinkler system (if you have one);
• Gently vacuum the smoke detectors to remove the dust that has accumulated on them during the winter and help prevent false alarms.

Properly Store Flammable Liquids and Chemicals

When you’re done with spring cleaning, be sure to properly store cleaning products and any other chemicals you have in the home:
• Properly dispose of oily or greasy rags and rags soaked in chemicals;
• Clean any residue that may have dripped from the cleaning liquids’ containers and check the containers for leaks;
• Make sure all containers are properly labeled and tightly sealed;
• Store your cleaning fluids, gasoline, paints, and landscaping chemicals in a cool, dry place (preferably outside the house) and out of reach of children and pets;
• Keep all cleaning fluids and chemicals away from heat sources and electrical cords – most of them are combustible if overheated;
• Properly dispose of any cleaning supplies and chemicals that are expired or leaking.

Now that you know to prevent house fires with spring cleaning, the fire risk in your home will be much lower and you’ll be able to enjoy the warm season without worrying about fire safety. If the worst happens, however, and your home catches on fire despite your best efforts, you may still be able to save most of your property – just make sure you call experienced fire restoration professionals as soon as the fire is put out. The experts will be able to clean the affected household items and materials before they get damaged by the smoke, soot, and other corrosive byproducts of the fire and salvage anything that has not burned.

At ServiceMaster by Restoration Contractors, we have the professional knowledge and specialized equipment to handle any fire damage scenario in commercial or residential settings. Our quality fire restoration services include fire and smoke damage cleanup, fire damage repair, and odor removal. Our experienced and highly trained technicians can properly clean and restore household items affected by soot and other corrosive byproducts of the fire, as well as repair major damage from the fire itself. We can also remove lingering smoke odors with our advanced deodorization process and restore the excellent condition of your home.

If your home or building in Fort Wayne, IN or the surrounding areas in northeastern Indiana is affected by a fire, be sure to contact ServiceMaster by Restoration Contractors without delay – our skillful technicians will immediately step up to limit the secondary damage of the fire and will effectively repair and restore your property using advanced cleaning products and equipment. We are available 24/7 at (260) 420-1502 to respond to fire damage emergencies in the northeastern Indiana area.