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Get Ready for Summer with Fire Safety Tips From the Palo Alto Fire Department

Learn Some Fire Safety Tips to Help Ensure a Safe and Fun Summer Ahead

The warm summer months are a fun and exciting time — especially this year coming out of the pandemic. As school ends and summer vacation begins, families dream of relaxing at home by the pool, camping, and barbecuing. To ensure your family makes the most of summer, the Palo Alto Fire Department would like to offer some safety tips for your home and traveling. According to the USFA (United States Fire Administration), summer is one of the most dangerous periods for fire-related accidents and injuries. This blog highlights safety tips and a checklist you can use to make the summer go smoothly and safely.

Check Your Smoke Detectors

Many residential fires occur during the summer months, so it’s crucial to check your smoke detectors regularly, to make sure they are working. If you have traditional battery-operated alarms, make sure to change the batteries every year. Or, consider changing out your current smoke detectors with the units that have lithium batteries. Smoke detectors with lithium batteries do not have to be replaced for approximately 10 years. With just a few minutes of inspection, you can ensure that your alarm alerts you and gives you precious time to get to safety if a fire starts.

Learn more here.

Complete HVAC (Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) Maintenance

Many people don’t realize that dust in your HVAC system is a fire hazard, especially during the dry summer months. If you’re running multiple cooling systems, they can often get overloaded and overheated. If you don’t have a technical background, we recommend hiring a professional cleaning company to remove the dust on your electrical component of your home.

Learn more about preventing HVAC hazards here.

Store Gas Properly

It’s important that you never store propane gas cylinders indoors. When storing them outdoors, make sure they are not directly in sunlight or in high-pressure areas, as the heat can cause an explosion and fire.

Learn more about storing propane properly as part of creating defensible space around your home.

Clean Exhaust Fans

Many homeowners forget to remove the debris in their vents and clean their exhaust fans. Taking the time to clean them — and not overrun them — ensures they don’t overheat and start a fire.

Learn more here.

Maintain Your Lawnmower Properly

Don’t forget to read the instructions and follow the maintenance schedule on your lawnmowing equipment. Every time you use your lawnmower, make sure to remove the grass clippings and debris from the mufflers, cutting unit, and engines, and don’t refuel your mower if it is overheated.

Learn more about equipment use safety here.

Avoid Fireworks

All types of fireworks, even those labeled “safe and sane,” are illegal in Palo Alto, and most of Santa Clara County, including large bottle rockets, Roman candles, firecrackers, and even sparklers. This is because any firework can be a fire hazard, especially in the dry months when wildfires can easily ignite. A great alternative to fireworks is to attend the City of Palo Alto’s July 4th Celebration, with lots of safe family fun. If you’re eager to see fireworks, please go to a professionally supervised firework event this summer. Some local professional fireworks shows happening in 2022 include those at the Redwood City Port and Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View.

Clean and Store Your Grill Correctly

To help keep your home out of the line of fire, should you have a grill accident while barbecuing, it’s always a good idea to keep your grill a good distance away from your home and any overhanging eves or branches. It’s strongly recommended that you remove grease build-up and other debris each time you use it. Never leave a grill unattended; if you must leave, even if it’s just for a minute, turn it off before leaving as an animal, child or wind gust can topple it and cause a fire.

Below are some additional safety tips while grilling at home or over a campfire.

Keep a Water Bucket and Extinguisher Close to the Grill

Even if you are an experienced griller at home or while camping, hot embers can get blown away by wind and collide with a combustible material nearby, such as foliage or paper. If this happens, having a bucket of water and extinguisher close by can be crucial to putting out the flames before they grow and spread. If you plan on starting a large bonfire, it is wise you carry an extra fire extinguisher with you in case things get out of control.

Prevent Grease Buildup

For any grill you might be using, it’s important to keep it clean and free from grease build-up and accumulation, as this can easily cause a fire.

Always Make Sure the Flames are Out Before Leaving

One of the most dangerous things that can happen during summer adventures is falling asleep by a campfire. Embers can easily drift to nearby vegetation and start a small fire. The best course of action, therefore, is to put out your campfire totally before sleeping. You can do this by dumping water or sand on it. The same applies to BBQs. Ensure that your propane valve and vents on the grill are tightly shut when you are done.

Go here for more grilling safety tips.

Campfire Safety Tips

It’s important to know the burning rules in Palo Alto as well as where you are traveling. There is a ban on burning in several Santa Clara County parks, and campfires at home should be kept small. Make sure to know when a Spare the Air Alert is in effect, as this makes any wood burning illegal.

Inspect Your Surroundings

Think carefully before choosing a location for your campfire, prioritizing locations with an existing fire pit. If that isn’t available, it’s vital to build your fire in a safe location where there is no dry grass and overhanging tree branches. Be sure to clear away all the vegetation from the area you plan to set up your fire, dig a fire pit and surround it with rocks.

Store Flammable Liquids Properly

Never store highly flammable liquids like gasoline, lighter fluid, or kerosene close to your campfire, as stray flames can easily ignite them and start a fire.

Stop, Drop and Roll

Ensure that the people you are going camping with know how to stop drop and roll, and make sure to practice with kids, as clothes can sometimes catch fire.

Keep Campfires Small

Since large campfires are often difficult to control, and are more likely to cause drifting embers, it’s recommended to keep campfires small so they are easy to control and put out if necessary.

Keep the Campfire Away from Your Tent

People are often tempted to make the campfire close to their tents to stay warm on cool summer nights. However, the campfire should be a good distance away from your tent for safety and for air quality. Sometimes smoke can blow into the tent and irritate lungs. It’s also a good idea to invest in tents made from fire-resistant materials.

Keep Campfire Watch

If you want to keep the campfire running, assign someone to always keep an eye on the campfire. Otherwise, it’s recommended you put the campfire out if you are leaving or going to bed.

Come Prepared

Do not start a campfire if you don’t have the means or equipment to put it out. Always keep a shovel, buckets of water, and a fire extinguisher that you can easily use to put out the fire in the event of an emergency or when you are done using it.

Know How to Put the Fire Out

Be sure to douse your campfire with water and bury it with dirt and ash. Then douse the campfire with water again. This may seem like an overkill, but it will go a long way in preventing the fire from building after you leave.

Learn more about campfire safety here.

Use “Ready, Set, Go” Approach to Mitigate Wildfire Impact on Your Home and Family

Summer is a high-risk time for wildfires, especially now with worsening drought. Wildfires are common at this time of year, so it’s critical to invest the time in learning how to prepare for them so you can keep your family and home safe. For this reason, the City of Palo Alto Fire Department recommends a “Ready, Set, Go “ approach:

  • Ready — Create defensible space and harden your home to increase your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire.
  • Set — Prepare your evacuation plan and emergency supply kit.
  • GoEvacuate as soon as it is recommended by fire officials.

For detailed information on the “Ready, Set, Go” approach, go here.

MORE ONLINE RESOURCES

For more information on the City of Palo Alto Fire Department, go here.

Request a Fire Inspection from the Palo Alto Fire Department here.

For more information about the Office of Emergency Services, go here.

For regional fire status and online resources, go here.

Sign up for SCCAlert here.

For more information about the Palo Alto Police Department, go here.

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