Morning temperatures are sliding toward the freezing mark here on the Southern Oregon Coast. Many folks in our area still heat with wood thus creating a hazard all its own. Injuries occur when neophyte chain saw users take to the woods to cut their own firewood. Felling trees, cutting (bucking) firewood chunks, loading and stacking are all hazardous. More injuries occur when even experienced woodcutters try to split their wood. Some years ago, a friend of mine managed to cut himself seriously with a chainsaw while getting firewood. Problem number one, he was about 20 miles from town and bleeding badly. Problem number two, he was accompanied by his eleven year old son. Fortunately his son was more capable than most eleven year olds and managed to drive the pickup back to town. No permanent damage. Both father and son have a story to tell their grandkids.
A residential fire is the most common disaster in the United States. Over 3500 adults die in home fires every year.
Now’s the time to do a safety check around your home. You don’t have to be an expert in locating and fixing fire hazards. For those of you who burn wood, have your chimney inspected by an expert. Destructive flue fires are the by-product of neglecting chimney maintenance. Soot and creosote build-up are like fatal cholesterol for your flue. Easily remedied by a competent chimney sweep.
Cooking equipment should be inspected periodically. Most cooking utensils cook with electrical heating elements. Wires can become frayed or loose with time and usage, and a simple visual inspection can discover a loose wire or screw. Oftentimes a repair can be made with only a piece of electrical tape or replacing a cord.
Faulty wiring can be another fire-starting culprit. If your home is 30-40 years old, chances are your wiring can be overloaded. Shorts, overloads and huge sparks can set off fires inside your walls, delaying discovery of a disaster by precious minutes. Another case for having an expert inspect your home. The cost of an inspection is certainly worth the peace of mind and less than trying to rebuild.
Dryer lint. Nothing ignites a campfire like a big wad of dryer lint. A good prepper hack is to save your dryer lint, stuff a wad into the compartments of a cardboard egg carton, then dribble some candle wax on it to hold it in place. The dryer lint catches a spark from your favorite fire starter, the cardboard burns nicely and the candle wax prolongs the blaze, thus igniting your kindling. The downside against anything that flammable is that if it catches a spark at the wrong time, the results can be disastrous. The moral of this story: Clean your lint trap after each dryer load.
Candles. Our grandparents trimmed their Christmas tree with candles. I cannot imagine how many Christmas tree fires resulted from that little bit of genius. Fortunately we no longer use candles on our trees, but candles can still be a hazard. Personally I like the smell, the atmosphere and coziness candles provide. But they are still an open flame and if placed in the wrong location, they can still be dangerous. Try to use candles that are short and wide, not the “easily tipped over” variety. Also be very careful when you set the thing out. Keep it away from curtains, or anything easily flammable. Just a little bit of wisdom can keep you from being a statistic.
As always, send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous columns can be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com. Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.