ONETIME- Unattended fronds: How the house fire began


Pete Sweeney, CFD Battalion Chief

One time, we responded to an apartment building on fire. On arrival, we had a couple standing on the porch, the male wearing a bathing suit, the female wearing a bikini, which we thought was odd because it was January. So we put the ladder up to the landing, got them out, fought the fire, and then interviewed them and asked what happened. 


The guy explained that he was trying to create a beach scene for his girlfriend: he was going to propose to her that night. So he built props like palm fronds out of toilet paper, cardboard and stuff. He brought in sand and he wanted to create foam from the surf, so he had all this paper all crumpled up. 

And one of the torches caught the scene on fire. 

He made quite an impression on her, but I don't know if his proposal was accepted or rejected. 

Cooking is the number one fire-starter in homes, but candles are way up near the top of the list, so if you want to do anything in the realm of romance, one, don't put candles next to combustibles and two, don't leave them burning. Around the holidays we suggest, especially with children, to use candles with bulbs in them. Or just make sure that they're extinguished. 

Unattended candles and appliances are the most frequent sources of fires in houses. 

Dryers, toaster ovens, stuff like that. And most of the time, it's just stuff left unattended. Another thing is regular maintenance of appliances, especially heating and air conditioning. Pay the money to have somebody come out and check your systems. It will be money in the bank, long-term. Especially the fossil fuel fire stuff. 

(Also, if you have a disruption in your utilities, and you smell gas in maybe the pilot light, you want to cut it off and have someone come out and call the company to come out and check out your appliances.)

They need to check the flue gasses, they need to check the cleanliness of the unit. If it's heat pumps and stuff, they need to check the charge. And people will go five, six years and not clean their filters so they're running their fans against this blocked-up filter. It's like a car: if you don't service a car regularly, don't change the oil, don't do the tune-ups, it's going to burn-out. It's the same thing with anything mechanical. You've got to do the normal maintenance to it.


[Note: the photo credit above originally bore the name of another photographer. It has been corrected in this archived online edition.]