The second most common source of fire damage in the home, coming just short of the kitchen, is the garage. Like the attic, this room is typically only visited on our ways in and out of the house or for certain projects and car maintenance. It is one of the lesser visited rooms in the home, is typically not climate controlled, and is one of the biggest stockpiles of flammable and combustible items in the whole building (aside, once again, from the kitchen). Since most people might prefer to work on their vehicles in their garage, there’s often trace amounts of gas and oil in this enclosed space, along with the clutter of items being stored here, creating the perfect conditions for a fire. There are a few things you can do in your garage to keep this room as fire-safe as possible, despite its seemingly open invitations to spontaneous combustion.
Lots of power tools, vacuums, battery chargers and other electrical items are often used and stored in the garage. Keep these items unplugged when not in use, particularly the chargers, to avoid overloading the electrical system. Also, keep a close eye on your chargers when you are using them, as some models can actually overheat if they are plugged for too long after the battery is fully charged. This can not only ruin the battery and the charger but in some cases can even melt the unit and become both a heat and electrical fire hazard. Make sure that all your flammable fuels, fluids and cleaning chemicals are properly sealed when not in use and stored a safe distance from flammable elements or any sources of heat. This includes space heaters, vents and pilot lights. Keeping a fire extinguisher handy in the garage is also a great idea, and so is keeping your propane tanks outside. They are built sturdy enough to be stored outside, and they should be, since propane is prone to sudden ignitions.
Be sure that any attic entrance in your garage is sealed with a proper hatch to prevent the spread of a fire if one should occur, and find out if the walls in your garage are made of fire-resistant material, as they most definitely should be. A fire safety professional can let you know what type of firewall protection you have if you’re not sure. Also, try your best to keep the garage free of too much clutter. This not only makes a cleaner, neater, and safer environment for all your garage chores and hobbies, but it will also go a long way in preventing the spread of a fire should a sudden ignition occur somewhere. Finally, make sure the door that opens into the actual living area of the home is a properly sealed and solid exterior door that prevents carbon monoxide and other harmful garage fumes from entering into the house. If parts of the inside of your house always smell like your garage, then there is a good chance that your door needs to be replaced immediately.
Despite all our best safety and preventative efforts, accidents do happen, and so do fires, even when we’ve done everything right. In the event of a fire in your garage, gather your family and immediately exit the home. Once the fire is extinguished, you should still stay out of the damage zone when at all possible. The possibility of a fire reigniting is always a real and present threat, combined with the health hazards of the smoke, soot, and all the toxic fumes from the materials in your garage that may have started the fire in the first place. Call your local restoration company so they can assess the damage and begin restoration, and remember that your life is more valuable than anything you own.