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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

What to do if you get caught in a house fire

11/2/2020 (Permalink)

2 story house on fire 2 story house on fire.


In the Mesa area the holidays generally see an increase in house fires. Most people would assume that the increase in fires is due to Christmas Trees and Candles catching on fire. While that may be true in other areas, statistics here indicated that the number 1 cause of house fires during the holidays is distracted cooking gone wrong. When a fire breaks out and you are awake people are generally able to react quickly to either get out of the house or stop the fire before it becomes a problem. But what happens when a fire breaks out and you are asleep? The majority of fire deaths occur when fires start when people are sleeping.

Here's the scenario, it's the middle of the night, the fire alarm starts going off. You're startled awake and you notice a slight presence of smoke in the room. What do you do? Well, how slight is slight? If it's slight enough you might try to, get some things. Like some jeans or your comic book collection or something. No, It's imperative not to waste any time, a fire can go from small to huge in a matter of minutes. 

40 years ago you had 17 minutes from the time the fire alarm went off to safely exit the house. Today, that amount of time is down to about three or four minutes.  This is because modern furniture burns quicker because so many items are now made with synthetic materials.


Get to the door. You feel if it's hot with the back of your hand. If it's not hot, you open it. If it’s hot, you don’t open it. Even if it is warm you could run a serious risk by opening it.

Alright, so what are you supposed to do if you can't exit? If you're unable to exit, your best option may be to stay put, stay right where you are. Smoke, in this case, is one of your biggest threats. Fire and smoke in a room diminish oxygen. Under normal conditions the percent of oxygen in the air is roughly 21%. Even when this percentage is just slightly lowered to 16% physical and mental ability become significantly impaired. When available oxygen is estimated to be at about 6 to 7%, death can occur within minutes. But fire won't burn with that low of an oxygen concentration. So at least you won't burn to death. So, just to reiterate, don’t go running through the fire like you see in the movies!

If you are stuck in a room, here are your next steps. You will want to prepare this ahead of time, so hopefully you aren’t reading this while the fire is in the next room. That could be bad.

  1. First notify responders
  2. Next focus on sealing out the smoke. 

You will want to have foil, duct tape, and a wet towel. If you aren’t able to use a wet towel, use a dry one. Lay the towel against the bottom crevice of the door. Use the foil and tape to cover the air vents and cracks. And you can hold a damp cloth against your face to help filter smoke. - 


Alright so now the fire is in the room, we can feel the heat, we have nowhere else to go. What are you supposed to do? - Well, in dire situations, a window may also serve as an exit. If the window is stuck and you feel compelled to break the window, please be mindful, this is incredibly dangerous. It may sound like fun, but it’s very dangerous. This type of scene may seem movie-like and exciting, but it's actually your last resort. Ideally you want to aim to take preemptive measures so a situation like this does not occur in the first place.  

So if you’re at this point you're in serious trouble. There have been situations where someone panicked, broke the window, cut his wrist, and actually bled out by the time they were found. There are a few safety measures to keep in mind. First, find a cloth and wrap your hands. Second, find a blunt object to break the window with. Break the window and safely clear the window frame of glass before exiting the room through the window.

After you have escaped the house, if you have exited through a first floor window, you will want to get away from the house to safety. If you are exiting through the second story get off of the roof as quickly and safely as possible. Again, hopefully you are reading this before an emergency happens and you can prepare ahead of time by getting a ladder that can be hooked to the window similar to the First Alert Store Steel Fire Escape Ladder. After you have gotten safely away from the house fire, call first responders at 9-1-1 as soon as possible if you haven’t already.


After the first responders have put the fire out, the next stage begins. Dealing with your insurance, restoration companies, and the hotel stays. I remember when I was younger and our house caught on fire that the hotel stay for a month was like a vacation. I loved it. When talking with my parents about the experience, they had less than fond memories. More often than not, you will also have independent adjusters knocking on your door trying to “get you what you deserve from your insurance company.” We will be doing a separate blog post about the positives and negatives of using private adjusters in another blog post. We will add the link here when it is live. But, before you sign anything, talk with your insurance adjuster and at least 2 other restoration companies. (We would prefer that we were one of them!) 

The recovery will be a very stressful ordeal and you want to make sure you are working with someone you feel comfortable with. SERVPRO of North Central Mesa’s emergency line is available 24 hours a day and is answered by someone who actually works from the local office here in Mesa, AZ. Feel free to give us a call any time so we can answer any questions you have before a fire happens, or afterwards.

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