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Information: (650) 851-1594

Established 1924

Woodside Fire Protection District

Serving Woodside, Portola Valley, Emerald Hills, Ladera, Los Trancos, Skyline, Vista Verde, CA.

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Learn About Fire

Every day Americans experience the horror of fire. But most people don't understand fire. Only when we know the true nature of fire can we prepare ourselves and our families. Each year more than 3,400 Americans die and approximately 17,500 are injured in fires, many of which could be prevented.

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) believes that fire deaths can be reduced by teaching people the basic facts about fire. Below are some simple facts that explain the particular characteristics of fire.

Fire is FAST!
There is little time!
In less than 30 seconds a small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for thick black smoke to fill a house. In minutes, a house can be engulfed in flames. Most fires occur in the home when people are asleep. If you wake up to a fire, you won't have time to grab valuables because fire spreads too quickly and the smoke is too thick. There is only time to escape.
Fire is HOT!
Heat is more threatening than flames.
A fire's heat alone can kill. Room temperatures in a fire can be 100 degrees at floor level and rise to 600 degrees at eye level. Inhaling this super hot air will scorch your lungs. This heat can melt clothes to your skin. In five minutes a room can get so hot that everything in it ignites at once: this is called flashover.
Fire is DARK!
Fire isn't bright, it's pitch black.
Fire starts bright, but quickly produces black smoke and complete darkness. If you wake up to a fire you may be blinded, disoriented and unable to find your way around the home you've lived in for years.
Fire is DEADLY!
Smoke and toxic gases kill more people than flames do.
Fire uses up the oxygen you need and produces smoke and poisonous gases that kill. Breathing even small amounts of smoke and toxic gases can make you drowsy, disoriented and short of breath. The odorless, colorless fumes can lull you into a deep sleep before the flames reach your door. You may not wake up in time to escape.

Fire Safety Tips

In the event of a fire, remember time is the biggest enemy and every second counts!

Escape first, then call for help. Develop a home fire escape plan and designate a meeting place outside. Make sure everyone in the family knows two ways to escape from every room. Practice feeling your way out with your eyes closed. Never stand up in a fire, always crawl low under the smoke and try to keep your mouth covered. Never return to a burning building for any reason; it may cost you your life.

Finally, having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. And remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family.

Garage Fires

Garage fires tend to spread farther and cause more injuries and dollar loss per fire than fires that start in all other areas of the home. Help increase awareness about dangerous home garage fires in your community with these messages and free materials.

Free handouts

Download these free handouts on preventing home garage fires to reproduce and distribute in your community. A space is provided for you to easily include your organization's logo.

garage fire safety fact sheet

Fact sheet with statistics and tips to prevent home garage fires (PDF, 1.1 Mb, 8½ inches x 11 inches)

garage fire safety poster

Poster with tips to prevent home garage fires (PDF, 754 Kb, 8½ inches x 11 inches)

garage fire safety postcard

Postcard with tips to prevent home garage fires (PDF, 650 Kb, 8½ inches x 5 inches, 2-up)

 

Facts about garage fires

Every year, there are 6,600 garage fires in homes that result in an average of:

  • 30 deaths.
  • 400 injuries.
  • $457 million in property loss.

Of these fires, 93 percent occurred in one- and two-family homes.

The leading cause of garage fires is electrical malfunction. This can be due to shorts in wires, damaged wires, and overloading electrical outlets.

Fire safety messages

Remind residents to follow these prevention tips to keep homes safe from garage fires.

  • Store oil, gasoline, paints, propane and varnishes in a shed away from your home.
  • Keep items that can burn on shelves away from appliances.
  • Plug only one charging appliance into an outlet.
  • Don’t use an extension cord when charging an appliance.
  • Install:
    • A 20-minute fire-rated door that is self-closing and self-latching from the garage into the house.
    • A ceiling made with ⅝-inch Type X gypsum board (or the equivalent) if you have living space above the garage.
    • A wall with ½-inch gypsum board (or the equivalent) if the wall attaches the garage to your home.
    • An attic hatch cover if you have attic access from the garage.
    • A heat alarm — not a smoke alarm — in your garage. The heat alarm will sound if the temperature rises too high.

Information to share about heat alarms

Heat alarms (detectors) are designed to respond to fire, not smoke. While smoke alarms get most of the attention, heat alarms are another useful part of any home fire detection system.

Some environments, like those found in garages, can cause smoke alarms to sound due to changes in temperature and humidity, as well as dust, fumes and insects. Heat alarms are virtually unaffected by these adverse conditions; smoke alarms are not.

Smoke alarms are not required, or designed for use, in garages. Many heat alarm models can be connected to a home’s fire detection system so that if the heat alarm sounds, the smoke alarms will as well.

 Tips for buying and installing heat alarms:

Purchase a heat alarm that is:

  • Hard-wired with a battery backup.
  • Capable of interconnecting with your home’s smoke alarms.
  • Rated for temperatures between 175-250 degrees Fahrenheit. Alarms with lower temperature ratings may falsely sound in garages where temperatures rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Alarms with higher temperature ratings may sound too late to warn you about a fire.

Have your hard-wired heat alarm installed by a qualified electrician.

Don’t install heat alarms near fluorescent lights. Electrical noise and flickering from the lights may affect the alarm’s operation.

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.


Additional resources on garage fires

Home Hazardous Materials

Practicing home hazardous materials safety is important in preventing home fires. Many people use chemicals in their homes safely every day, but as the number of chemical products increases, the risk for improper use and injury also increases.

What Are Household Hazardous Materials?

When most of us think of "hazardous materials," we picture trucks full of chemicals, factories, or dumps oozing slime. However, every home can be a warehouse of hazardous materials, containing items such as:

  • Automotive fluids
  • Barbecue products
  • Batteries
  • Health and beauty products
  • Home maintenance products
  • Household cleaners
  • Laundry products
  • Lawn and garden products
  • Medicines and medical supplies
  • Paints and thinners

In addition, asbestos or lead paint present in older homes, and mercury in compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), may become exposed during or after a home fire.

Preventing Medical Oxygen Fires

When using medical oxygen, the amount of oxygen in the air, furniture, clothing, hair, and bedding can increase. This means there is a higher risk of both fires and burns because it is easier for a fire to start and spread.

Safety Tips

  • » Never smoke in a home where medical oxygen is used.
  • » Post "No Smoking" signs inside and outside your home to remind residents and guests not to smoke.
  • » Never use a candle, match, lighter, or other open flame.
  • » Never use a fireplace, stove, or other equipment fueled by gas, kerosene, wood, or coal.
  • » Do not allow children to use toys that spark.
  • » Keep oil, grease, and similar petroleum-based products away from oxygen valves. They can cause a spontaneous explosion.

How Can I Make My Home Safer?

Home hazardous materials can pose serious fire, health, or environmental hazards. For these reasons, proper use, storage and disposal of hazardous materials at home is extremely important.

Use and Storage Tips

  • Buy only the amount of product that you need to reduce the quantity of hazardous materials in storage.
  • Familiarize yourself with each product, its location, and purpose.
  • Follow use and storage instructions on the product’s label. Mixing some products can create deadly poisonous fumes or cause fires.
  • Store hazardous materials in their original containers. Changing containers is not only dangerous - it is illegal.
  • Use only portable storage containers listed by an independent testing laboratory for flammables and combustibles.
  • Store flammable products - such as gasoline, kerosene, propane gas, and paint thinner - away from the home.
  • Only fill portable gasoline containers outdoors in a well-ventilated area. Place the container on the ground to fill.
  • Never store flammables in direct sunlight or near an open flame or heat source.
  • Inspect storage areas regularly for leaky containers, poor ventilation, and the smell of fumes.
  • Store hazardous materials out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Use guardrails and safety locks on shelves and cabinets to prevent containers from tipping over or falling out, especially if you live in an earthquake-prone area.
  • Wear suitable protective clothing including gloves and eyewear as recommended by the product manufacturer.

Disposal Tips

  • Follow disposal instructions on the product's label.
  • Aerosol cans sometimes contain flammable or poisonous chemicals. If you dispose of them in the trash, they can be punctured and explode or start a fire.
  • In the event of a spill, thoroughly clean the area and place disposal containers in a well-ventilated area. If you cannot control the spill, or are in doubt about cleanup and disposal, call your local fire department.
  • If your community has a designated household hazardous waste collection day or collection facility to dispose of hazardous materials, use this service whenever possible.
  • Pay special attention to chemical products when moving them from place to place. The same rules apply for proper transportation as they do for storage.

Tips to Avoid a Hazardous Materials Emergency During a Natural Disaster

Follow these tips to help prevent hazardous materials from posing an added danger during a natural disaster:

  • Always use a flashlight - not a candle - for emergency lighting.
  • Knowing how to shut off the gas outside at the meter can save your life during an emergency. Once you shut off the gas only the gas company should turn it back on!
  • Mount or chain propane cylinders securely to prevent them from floating away during a flood.
  • Secure fuel tanks to a cement slab to prevent them from tipping over or floating away during a flood. Elevate tanks to prevent damage to the valves.
  • Install flexible gas lines from cylinders or tanks to all gas and fuel appliances in your home.
  • Make sure freestanding sheds, garages, and small barns where hazardous materials are stored are tied down securely to the ground. Reinforce double entry or garage doors.

Fire Extinguishers

USFA recommends that only those trained in the proper use and maintenance of fire extinguishers consider using them when appropriate.

Fire Extinguisher

The use of a fire extinguisher in the hands of a trained adult can be a life and property saving tool. However, a majority of adults have not had fire extinguisher training and may not know how and when to use them. Fire extinguisher use requires a sound decision making process and training on their proper use and maintenance.

Should I Use a Fire Extinguisher?

Consider the following three questions before purchasing or using a fire extinguisher to control a fire:

1. What type of fire extinguisher is needed?

Different types of fires require different types of extinguishers. For example, a grease fire and an electrical fire require the use of different extinguishing agents to be effective and safely put the fire out.

Basically, there are five different types of extinguishing agents. Most fire extinguishers display symbols to show the kind of fire on which they are to be used.

Types of Fire Extinguishers
class A Class A extinguishers put out fires in ordinary combustible materials such as cloth, wood, rubber, paper, and many plastics. Ordinary Combustibles
class B Class B extinguishers are used on fires involving flammable liquids, such as grease, gasoline, oil, and oil-based paints. Flammable Liquids
class C Class C extinguishers are suitable for use on fires involving appliances, tools, or other equipment that is electrically energized or plugged in. Electrical Equipment
class D Class D extinguishers are designed for use on flammable metals and are often specific for the type of metal in question. These are typically found only in factories working with these metals. Combustible Metals
class K Class K fire extinguishers are intended for use on fires that involve vegetable oils, animal oils, or fats in cooking appliances. These extinguishers are generally found in commercial kitchens, such as those found in restaurants, cafeterias, and caterers. Class K extinguishers are now finding their way into the residential market for use in kitchens. Combustible Cooking

There are also multi-purpose fire extinguishers - such as those labeled "B-C" or "A-B-C" - that can be used on two or more of the above type fires.

2. Is the fire at a point where it might still be controlled by a fire extinguisher?

Portable fire extinguishers are valuable for immediate use on small fires. They contain a limited amount of extinguishing material and need to be properly used so that this material is not wasted. For example, when a pan initially catches fire, it may be safe to turn off the burner, place a lid on the pan, and use an extinguisher. By the time the fire has spread, however, these actions will not be adequate. Only trained firefighters can safely extinguish such fires.

Use a fire extinguisher only if:

  • You have alerted other occupants and someone has called the fire department;
  • The fire is small and contained to a single object, such as a wastebasket;
  • You are safe from the toxic smoke produced by the fire;
  • You have a means of escape identified and the fire is not between you and the escape route; and
  • Your instincts tell you that it is safe to use an extinguisher.

If all of these conditions are not present, you should NOT try to use a fire extinguisher. Alert other occupants, leave the building following your home escape plan, go to the agreed upon meeting place, and call the fire department from a cell phone or a neighbor's home.

3. Am I physically capable of using the extinguisher?

Some people have physical limitations that might diminish or eliminate their ability to properly use a fire extinguisher. People with disabilities, older adults, or children may find that an extinguisher is too heavy to handle or it may be too difficult for them to exert the necessary pressure to operate the extinguisher.

Maintenance

Fire extinguishers need to be regularly checked to ensure that:

  • The extinguisher is not blocked by furniture, doorways, or any thing that might limit access in an emergency.
  • The pressure is at the recommended level. Some extinguishers have gauges that indicate when the pressure is too high or too low.
  • All parts are operable and not damaged or restricted in any way. Make sure hoses and nozzles are free of insects or debris. There should not be any signs of damage or abuse, such as dents or rust, on the extinguisher.
  • The outside of the extinguisher is clean. Remove any oil or grease that might accumulate on the exterior.

Additionally:

  • Shake dry chemical extinguishers once a month to prevent the powder from settling or packing. Check the manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Pressure test the extinguisher (a process called hydrostatic testing) after a number of years to ensure that the cylinder is safe to use. Find out from the owner's manual, the label, or the manufacturer when an extinguisher may need this type of testing.
  • Immediately replace the extinguisher if it needs recharging or is damaged in any way.

Sound Decision Making. Training. Maintenance.

All are required to safely control a fire with an extinguisher. For this reason, USFA recommends that only those trained in the proper use and maintenance of fire extinguishers consider using them when appropriate. Contact your local fire department for information on training in your area.


Links of Interest

Electrical Safety

Electrical FIres are a Leading Cause of Fire Damage in the US

Learn about the threat of home electrical fires with these messages and downloadable materials.

Public service announcement: home electrical fire safety

Fire Prevention and Public Education Exchange

The Exchange serves as a centralized location for national, state and local fire prevention and life safety practices and public education materials that organizations may wish to share with other communities. Visit the Exchange.

Outreach materials

The U.S. Fire Administration recommends the following organizations as trusted and reliable sources for free outreach materials you can use to help increase awareness about home electrical fires in your community.

  • National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Statistical reports, fact sheet, and safety tips to help prevent electrical fires. 
    NFPA toolkit: Keeping your community safe and energized. An online toolkit of support materials to help fire departments conduct successful electrical safety campaigns in their communities.
    The National Fire Protection Association helps to reduce fire loss through consensus codes and standards, research, training and education.
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission safety guide: electronics and electrical. Electrical safety information on ground fault circuit interrupters, arc fault circuit interrupters, household extension cords, and spotting possible safety problems with electrical products in your home before they occur.
    The Consumer Product Safety Commission is a U.S. federal agency that protects the public from injury or death associated with the use of consumer products.
  • Electrical Safety Foundation International. Electrical fire safety prevention strategies and outreach materials, including community and school presentations, instructions for testing an AFCI, and a home fire safety checklist.
    The Electrical Safety Foundation International is a non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety at home and in the workplace.

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808 Portola Rd #C
Portola Valley, CA  USA
Tel: (650) 851-1594
Fax: (650) 851-3960
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