Tips for protecting homes from fire danger

Nina Pineda in 7 On Your Side segment reports on hidden fire dangers in homes.
Seven On Your Side
April 7, 2014 3:48:41 PM PDT
Modern homes are a perfect storm when it comes to fires. New research shows home innovations from technology to furniture can literally add fuel to a fire.

A damaged toaster, plugged in, right next to a gas stove top, is not only an electrical hazard it's a huge fire hazard.

In a controlled burn test done scientists with UL, Underwriters Laboratories, show how quickly a fire in typical modern home can turn into an inferno.

We asked U-L's engineer John Drengenberg to do a safety audit, to prevent a fire before it happens.

First culprit - overloaded circuits.

"Everybody thinks I have all these outlets let me fill them up. The reality is it all goes back to one circuit and I can feel this already getting warm," said Drengenberg.

The tip - unplug items like a hair dryer when not in use.

Next - keep anything with a cord away from the sink or tub.

"If children would accidentally pull that into a bathtub with them that could be deadly." said Drengenberg.

Something benign like loose recycled batteries is another fire hazard, if their charged ends touch and get hot enough. Remedy: cover battery ends with electrical tape to avoid this.

Aromatherapy is a way to unplug from our modern world but the prevalence of scented candles has led to more accidental fires.

"Candles cause thousands for fires because they're left unattended even a simple candle like this," said Drengenberg.

Because we are using more synthetic, less natural materials nowadays, a knocked over candle can do major damage, fast.

Synthetic materials burn hotter and faster than natural materials.

In the burn tests common items like synthetic chairs, rugs and polyurethane pillows found in most homes can drastically reduce escape time before the room is consumed.

"30, 40 years ago you would have 17 minutes from the time a smoke alarm went off, today you'd have 3-4," Drengenberg said.

Thats a 14 minute difference firefighters deal with in modern homes. Another hazard, recycling materials too close to ignition sources.

Don't store papers or boxes near a furnace or fireplace, if a fire should break out that's extra fuel.