Duplex fire in Overland Park

Happy Fire Safety for Rentals Month!

By Oretta Croushore, Property Manager for Home Rental Services.

Officially, Fire Safety Month is in October. Maybe because it’s bonfire season. Or maybe because of unruly, flaming Jack-O-Lanterns. I’m enacting one of those Facebook holidays. You know, when someone posts it’s National Ice Cream day or National Margarita day? You’re pretty sure they made it up… but why not celebrate with margarita ice cream? (Ooh, that deserves its own day!)

Duplex Fire

A few weeks ago, there was a serious duplex fire near my house in Overland Park. It wasn’t a home managed by Home Rental Services. My friend April lives down the street and she posted a picture of the inferno on Facebook. I was so moved by the picture, I asked her if we could use it, as it was the inspiration for this topic. It turns out, one of the residents is a classmate of April’s daughter. Our kids will attend the same school next year.

Photo credit: April Abbott

House fires have always given me a tight feeling deep in my stomach.  It’s one of my biggest fears. April told me it prompted their household to revisit their plan in case of a fire. The neighbors reported seeing a fire pit in use on the wooden patio moments before the house was engulfed in flames. Sadly, their pet cat was lost in the fire and five people were left without a home. 

I’m not here to victim blame. The weather is getting nicer, we’re stuck inside, and all of our favorite activities have been cancelled. It’s tempting to make our own fun with what we have at home. S’mores are always a good idea.

Fire pits and charcoal grills should never be used on wooden decks.

Fire pits and charcoal grills should be kept at least 10 feet away from combustible materials. Our lease prohibits renters from having fire pits. It’s easy to forget how quickly a fire can get out of control when it seems to be contained.

I encourage everyone to make good choices and be respectful of fire. This goes for camp fires, grills, bonfires, and fire pits. Make sure you have a way to extinguish a fire quickly. A fire extinguisher is the best choice, but a garden hose within arms reach could make a huge difference.

Rules of Conduct around fire.

In Girl Scouts, we teach the girls to tie back their hair around the fire, keep any loose clothing away, to enter and exit the fire circle only from the designated entry point (no stepping over logs or rocks) and to maintain a three point contact when kneeling near the fire. Just as it’s important to have a plan for getting out of a burning house, you should have rules of conduct around a fire.

Check your smoke detector batteries!

Since I’m up on my fire safety soap box, I’m going to talk a little about smoke detectors. How many times have you heard a story on the news of a tragic house fire where the smoke detectors were not working? I feel like even one of those stories is too many. I get it, smoke detectors are easy to forget about. We expect them to hang out and jump into action when we need them. I cannot emphasize this enough. PLEASE CHECK YOUR SMOKE DETECTOR BATTERIES!

A good rule of thumb is to check them when you change your clocks for daylight savings. Keep some replacement batteries on hand. We all know how long it takes to remember to grab a 9V when you are out and about. That detector could end up without a battery for a month or more. If that guy in the hall starts chirping, he’s crying for help. If you have an extra battery on hand, you can take the old one out and put the new one right in.

Would you believe I’ve had instances where renters have removed the smoke detectors? I recently reviewed move out pictures where the family living in the house removed every single smoke detector that was installed! Six smoke detector brackets and not a single smoke detector to be found in the house. This makes me sick to my stomach to think about what could have happened. 

But I love S’mores!

I’m a Girl Scout and I love s’mores! So, what do you do if you’ve got that craving but you can’t roast them on your wooden deck?

Here are two acceptable ways to make S’mores without a fire:

1) Sterno (you know that stuff they light under the chafing dishes to keep them warm). You can get it in the camping isle and even at the dollar store! A fondue fork and lit can of Sterno and you’re roasting safely indoors or outdoors! (Beware of flaming marshmallows.)

2) A triangle sugar cone stuffed with marshmallows, chocolate, and broken grahams. Wrap him up in some foil so he’s completely covered. You can either throw him on the grill or bake in a 350° oven until he’s all melty and delicious.

To recap… Check your smoke detector batteries and replace them as needed. Sit down with your family and have the talk about an escape route in case of a fire. And be safe when enjoying S’mores. (You’ll be glad that you did.) Happy Fire Safety for Rentals Month!