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Fire News

Fire News

Fire Prevention Week

Friday's Topic - Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms play a vital role in reducing fire deaths, CO poisoning and injuries. Fire is a chemical reaction between oxygen and a type of fuel that's been ignited (wood or gasoline for example). When there isn't enough oxygen to burn the fuel source, smoke is produced. Smoke is a collection of tiny solid, liquid and gas particles (mostly carbon, tar, oils and ash) that becomes visible when enough of these tiny particles group together. On the other hand, Carbon Monoxide, or CO, is a by-product of combustion and is commonly produced by household items like portable generators, and charcoal grills. Carbon Monoxide binds to the hemoglobin found in red blood cells and starves the body of oxygen. Both smoke and carbon monoxide are toxic fumes that can seriously endanger health; in fact, smoke inhalation accounts for nearly 75% of home fire deaths and over 20,000 emergency room visits are due to CO poisoning. Toxic fumes can spread fast in your home, so properly installed and maintained smoke/carbon monoxide alarms can give you time to evacuate safely.

Here are some helpful tips on smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm installations:

  • Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms should be installed in every sleeping room, hallway (just outside each room), and on every level of the home. Fires can start at any area of a house and a closed door may delay detection. On levels without bedrooms, install alarms in the living room (or den or family room) or near the stairway to the upper level, or in both locations.
  • Carbon Monoxide mixes with air, so be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommendation when it comes to installing CO alarms, Smoke rises, so be sure to mount smoke alarms high on walls (no more than 12 inches from the ceiling) or ceilings. If you have ceilings that are pitched, install the alarm within 3 feet of the peak but not within the apex of the peak.
  • There are two types of smoke alarms – ionization and photoelectric. For the best protection, both types of alarms or combination ionization-photoelectric alarms, also known as dual sensor smoke alarms, are recommended.
  • Smoke alarms should be installed at least 10 feet from cooking appliances to minimize false alarms when cooking. Avoid installing smoke alarms near windows, doors, or ducts. Avoid installing CO alarms in direct sunlight, near any fuel-burning appliances, near any fan, vent or open window, or in excessively humid areas like your bathroom.
  • Smoke alarms should be interconnected so that when one sounds, they all sound. When interconnected smoke alarms are installed, it is important that they are from the same manufacturer as they may not sound if incompatible.
  • Never paint smoke alarms. Paint, stickers, or other decorations could keep the alarms from working.

Here are some helpful tips on smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm maintenance:

  • Test your alarms at least once a month. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions on testing your alarms.
  • Smoke alarms should be maintained and cleaned according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Replace all smoke alarms in your home every 10 years. Carbon monoxide alarms have a lifetime between 5-7 years. For both types of alarms, be sure to check the manufacturer's instructions on when to replace them.
  • Smoke alarms with non-replaceable batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. If the alarm chirps, warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away.
  • Smoke alarms with any other type of battery need a new battery at least once a year. If that alarm chirps, warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away. When replacing a battery, follow manufacturer's list of batteries on the back of the alarm or manufacturer's instructions.


Thursday's Topic - Home Safety

Fire is so fast that it only takes 30 seconds for a small ignition to spread into a full fledge home fire. In a fire, the heat can increase the room temperature to 100 – 600 degrees Fahrenheit (the air intake at this temperature can injure your lungs!). Fire might be known for its brightness, but the smoke it produces will quickly shroud the rooms in darkness. Finally, it's often not the fire that kills people; it's the smoke. Smoke can disorient you and asphyxiation is the leading cause of death in fires. There are a variety of causes that can lead up to a fire in your home. For instance, something as simple as cooking oil splashing out of the pan can spread an open flame on the stove. It important to know what dangers are inside your home and be vigilant. Follow the helpful tips below to keep your family and your property safe:

  • Watch your cooking. Most modern stoves use propane gas to cook food. While cooking your delicious recipes, be sure to stay aware especially if you're frying, grilling, or broiling food. In fact, cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fires! And unattended cooking equipment account for 32% of kitchen fires. If you must leave the kitchen, remember to turn off the stove!
  • Inspect electrical cords. Damaged or cracked electrical cords, broken plugs and loose connections are common fire hazards found in homes, hotels, offices and restaurants. While seemingly harmless, damaged electrical connections have been known to start fires.
  • Make a home fire escape plan and practice your plan twice a year. If a fire were to happen in your home, it's estimated that you would only have about 3-4 minutes to escape. In 3 to 4 minutes your actions can mean the difference between life and death; and, its only human nature to panic and make rash decisions. Preparation and training are the most effective means of survival.
  • Get a couple of fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers not only put out fires, they can also minimize expensive fire damages. The estimated costs of rebuilding a kitchen is $50,000 and most fire extinguishers cost between $20 to $100. Be sure to buy State Fire Marshall approved fire extinguishers, be sure to know what type of fire extinguisher you're buying, and be sure to service the extinguisher annually.
  • Know how to shut off your utilities. For instance, it's a good idea to learn now how to shut off your gas in case of a disaster. That way you can minimize damages to your family and property!
  • Be careful with smoking. Between 2012 and 2016, one in 20 home fires were started by smoke materials and caused $476 million in direct property damage per year. Always smoke outside and never toss hot cigarette butts in the trash.
  • Candles are open flames. Candles and open flames account for 6% of American house fires. Always be sure to blow out all candles before leaving the room or going to sleep.
  • Stay safe (and warm) with portable space heaters. While they're great for winter, remember that these devices do produce heat. Keep combustible objects at least three feet away from portable space heaters.
  • Dryer Fires pose a real risk. Every year, American firefighters respond to an average of 14,630 home structure fires caused by dryers. The leading culprit is a failure to clean them and the extremely flammable lint that accumulates. Be sure to regularly clean and maintain your dryer!


Wednesday's Topic - Household Hazardous Materials

Did you know that if you were to squeeze an orange near an open flame, the limonene in this fruit could spread the fire into catastrophe for you and your family? Were you aware that garages can be considered a supermarket of potential fires? Oranges, snack chips, sugar, nail polish, aerosol cans, batteries, gasoline, oil, saw dust, oily rags and many other household items present individual fire hazards. Some household hazardous waste are even considered by the EPA to be explosive, corrosive or toxic under certain circumstances. With Americans generating 1.6 million tons of household hazardous waste per year, it's clear that we all introduce a degree of fire risk into our homes. It's important to know what household hazards you may have and know where to properly dispose of them. And luckily, there are four Household Hazardous Waste Collection Centers available to Orange County residents! Click here to see what household hazardous waste materials these Collection Centers accept and do not accept.

  • Anaheim Regional Collection Center
    1071 Blue Gum, Anaheim, CA 92806
  • Huntington Beach Regional Collection Center
    17121 Nichols Street, Huntington Beach, CA 92647
  • San Juan Capistrano Regional Collection Center
    32250 La Pata Avenue, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
  • Irvine Regional Collection Center
    6411 Oak Canyon, Irvine, CA 92618


Tuesday's Topic - Emergency Preparedness

Orange County is prone to many disasters, including earthquakes, wildfires, landslides, pandemic, flooding, terrorism, gas or chemical leaks, and more. Being prepared can reduce the fear, anxiety and losses that come with disasters. We all know that the next emergency is coming. We just don't know when or what kind it will be. But we can – and must – prepare now for the next emergency. Our family, friends and community depend on it. Do you know which types of disasters affect Orange County and how to prepare for them? There's an old joke that goes around that California is home to four seasons: Earthquake, Fire, Flood and Drought. Since the topic of Wildfires was covered on Monday, let's go over some helpful facts on the other three most common disasters in Orange County.

Earthquakes are as natural to California as is the Grizzly bear. The Earth's crust is divided into 12 pieces called tectonic plates (like a giant jigsaw puzzle). These tectonic plates are always slowly moving and sliding past each other, but sometimes they get stuck in place. When the plates finally overcome the friction and move again, that releases energy that travels through the earth's crust and causes the shaking we know as earthquakes. In California, there are two places that meet that is known as the San Andreas Fault. It is estimated that each year Southern California area has about 10,000 earthquakes, but most of them are so small that they are not felt. However, there are areas of the San Andreas Fault (and other smaller faults in California) where the plate movement strain can build for hundreds of years, producing great earthquakes when it finally releases. Drop, Cover, and Hold are the most important thing to do to protect yourself during an earthquake. But before the earthquake strikes, there are still proactive measures you can take to better protect yourself, your family and your property. Click on the link here to learn more about these proactive measures. Also be sure to download the free ReadyOC app to get an emergency checklist you can take to the store with you, and download free resources at ReadyOC.org.

Flooding is an overflow of water into land that's usually dry. In parts of Orange County, floods are quite common and likely to occur. There are 5 dams/reservoirs in close proximity, so large areas of the City are flood risks in the event of extensive dam failure. In Fullerton itself only one dam incident has occurred: the extensive winter rains in 2005 overfilled the Brea Dam and caused water to spill over its crest; luckily no lives were lost and only minor damage was done to city infrastructure. The Santa Ana River is another major flooding threat in Orange County, as in 1938 when the river flooded parts of Anaheim, Santa Ana, and Garden Grove. Multiple elements like population density, the construction of buildings, highways, driveways, and parking lots increase flash flood potential by reducing the amount of rain absorbed by the ground. Finally, streams through cities and towns are routed underground into storm drains which, sometimes during heavy rains, can become overwhelmed and flood roads and buildings. Because of the high probability of flooding in Orange County, it is important to be aware of certain flooding safety information and precautions. Remember: it only takes a two feet of rushing water to carry away most vehicles; it only takes six inches of moving water to know a person down; fast-moving water can sweep away bridges without warning; and flooded areas can be contaminated and electrically charged. Click here to know what types of flood risks are present in your area.

Droughts are an extended period of extreme dry weather with little water. Not only do droughts pose health risks to human populations, they increase fuel loads for wildfire by drying out crops and vegetation. The constraints of water conservation during droughts also affects the water supply available to the Fire Department for emergency response. The most recent California drought (2011-2017) was considered the worst drought in the last 1,200 years and killed more than 102 million trees. Conditions in Orange County are now more stable since the drought was declared over in 2017. Still, like any emergency, it's important to stay informed and learn more about emergency preparedness.


Monday's Topic - Wild Land Safety

With more than 1.1 million buildings located in California wildfire hazard zones, the destructive potential of wildfires cannot be overstated. These areas are most at risk for incurring property damage or physical harm from fires, especially to those residing in the Wild Land-Urban Interface (WUI). The wildfire risk level for these areas are measured using a three-tier scale of fire hazard severity zones—very high, high, and moderate. Wildfires fuel sources include: dry vegetation, industrial materials, or combustible buildings. Wildfire ignition sources include: downed power lines, lightning strikes, breached gas pipelines, improper storage of hazardous or flammable material, poor building maintenance, arson or even something as small as an unextinguished cigarette. When the weather is hot and dry, fires can even start from the friction of dried vegetation rubbing against each other!

Topography, infrastructure, home construction, wind direction, climate and numerous other factors come into play when assessing the fire risk of a particular area. For instance, residential areas in upper elevations are more at risk because the steeper a slope is, the faster a fire can spread. Most of Orange County's building infrastructure is wooden-frame construction, so a fire could start at any area of any city including intersections, freeways and railroads. The Mediterranean climate of Southern California can increase fire risk in areas with extensive fuel load. The Santa Ana winds that originate in the Great Basin can spread and amplify the impacts of fires in the Orange County region; in fact, the Santa Ana Winds are notorious for exacerbating wildfires on multiple occasions. Make no mistake, wildfires are a very real danger that requires awareness, vigilance and preparation for those of us who live and work in Fullerton and Brea. But with the right knowledge, residents can make their own property - and their neighborhood - much safer from wildfire:

  • Know if you're in a High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. If you reside in one of the High Fire Hazard Severity Zones, it is especially important that you are knowledgeable and vigilant to the environmental risk factors in your community.
  • Click here to learn more about landscaping tips that can help minimize fire risk to your property and learn how to create a Defensible Space that can protect your home during a fire.
  • The Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) divides the area surrounding your house into 3 zones: Immediate, Intermediate and Extended. The HIZ describes the fire hazards of each zone and how to best fortify your home and mitigate, perhaps even avoid, damages caused by wildfire. Start first with fortifying your home defenses to reduce ember penetration before moving on to strategic landscaping measures.
  • What are the primary threats to homes during a wildfire? Embers are the primary cause of home ignitions in wildfires; they are burning pieces of combustible material (wood and/or vegetation) that carried away from the main body of fire via wind.