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Household Fire Hazards

Hubby's New Hobby

In the Nick of Time

Small storage fires are easily smothered by throwing a blanket or rug over them. Better yet, keep a multipurpose fire extinguisher near storage areas.

Dear husband comes home loaded with gear for his newfound hobby: making furniture. You smile and nod; maybe he won't discard this one after a couple of weeks like all the others. As it turns out, he likes making furniture and is creating all sorts of things in your garage. He's not the neatest craftsman, however, and you notice a growing pile of oily-looking cloths near his work area. He's also dumping funny-smelling rags in your wash basket on a regular basis.

Cause for concern? Yes, on both counts. Many of the products used in furniture building are flammable. Leave them sit in a pile in a hot garage, and they can ignite. Put oil-soaked rags in your dryer, and the hot air can ignite them.

Always let rags and cloths used with flammable liquids dry out before you wash them. When they're not in use, store them in metal containers with tight lids. Label the containers so everyone knows what's in them.

Other flammables to be careful with include…

  • Barbecue charcoal. Damp coal can ignite. Always store it in a cool, dry place—preferably an open area where self-ignition, should it occur, presents less of a problem. A metal pail or garbage can with a tight lid is ideal.

  • Stacks of newspaper. Yes, recycling is admirable and good for our planet. However, stacks of newspapers are fire hazards. Stack up enough newspapers, and they can generate enough heat to ignite. Store your stacks in a cool, dry place at least 3 feet from heat-generating sources. And don't let them stack up too high.

Hot Rock

Dear teenage son has caught the thrifting fever. He comes home from a foray thrilled to death over an amazing find: an electric guitar from the '60s and a larger-than-life amp to match. He hauls his booty downstairs to the cave he calls a bedroom, and you're soon treated to his eager rendition of some Jimi Hendrix tune. As you search for your earplugs, you reflect on the fact that you haven't entered your son's bedroom in months, and that you probably need to, as most of what goes into it rarely comes out of it.

Cause for concern? Probably. If a bedroom is crammed with stuff, chances are that lots of it is flammable. A guitar amp, like all electrical appliances, throws off heat. If placed too close to flammable materials, the heat could cause a fire. Given the amp'sage, bad wiring and burned-out insulation are also possibilities.

Waffling Over an Iron

Now your dear teenage daughter is getting into the thrifting act. She comes home one day with a very neat old waffle iron, which she proudly presents to you. You've wanted one for a long time, and you're thrilled. This one even looks like it's in great shape.

You decide to make waffles for breakfast the following Sunday. As you plug in the waffle iron, it smells kind of funky but it seems to work just fine. You figure the funky smell is from disuse, and you figure it will dissipate as you use the iron, so you go ahead and pour in the batter.

Cause for concern? Definitely. Never use any appliance that smells funny when you plug it in, or that gives off a shock, no matter how slight, until you can have it checked out by a repair person. The funky smell could be from deteriorated insulation around internal wires, which could cause a fire. Remember, all it takes is one tiny spark.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Common Household Disasters © 2005 by Paul Hayman and Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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