According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly 1,000 house fires are accidentally started by pets each year. Yes, you read that correctly; a thousand house fires are linked to companion animals in our homes.
When I learned this startling stat I immediately thought of Stephen King’s FireStarter, then I began to laugh as the above images flash into my mind. As comical as it seems to imagine a dog, parrot, ferret, or cat starting fires like Drew Barrymore did, it’s a very serious concern in homes. Apparently it’s serious enough to have a day dedicated to it! Today is National Pet Fire Safety Day, so let’s look at the stats, and see what we can do to change them.
- Home fires are reported every 83 seconds.
- An estimated 500,000 pets are affected annually by fires.
- 40,000 pets die each year, mostly from smoke inhalation.
- Stove tops and/or cook tops are the number one piece of equipment involved in pets starting fires in the home.
- A 2010 study showed that space heaters were responsible for 32% of home-heating fires.
The American Kennel Club® and ADT Security Services have joined forces for National Pet Fire Safety Day (July 15) to spread awareness about how pets start home fires, and how we can prevent these fires:
Tips to Prevent Pets from Starting Fires!
- Extinguish flames! As counter-intuitive as it seems, many animals will investigate cooking appliances, candles, etc. Make sure animals are not left unattended around an open flame. Be sure to extinguish all flames before leaving home, or falling asleep!
- Be aware of Canine Kleptos! Food- motivated dogs (and cats!) will often try to climb, jump, and reach up to food left out on the stove/counter. When they do this they can accidentally hit the stove knobs. Stove tops/cook tops are the number one piece of equipment involved in pets starting fires in the home. Fire Safety experts suggest that we remove stove knobs or protect them with covers before leaving the house. My suggestion is to remove any temptation! Don’t leave food out! If there is no temptation, they won’t be up on surfaces where they don’t belong.
- Invest in flameless candles. These candles contain a light bulb rather than an open flame, and take the danger out of pets knocking over a candle. Cats are notorious for starting fires when their tails turn over lit candles. Wagging dog tails can knock over incense and candles. I have seen cats and dogs burn their tails and whiskers on candle flames, then knock over the flame. Keep these well out of reach of pets!
- Secure young pets! Keep them away from potential fire-starting hazards when you are away from home. Space heaters can be a huge risk for pets starting fires. When in doubt, put any hazardous items away! Or, use a safe crate, or place the pets in secure areas.
- Check out more tips from Dognition on how to PREVENT PETS FROM CAUSING ACCIDENTAL FIRES.
Make It Easy for Firefighters to Help Your Pets!
- Keep collars on all animals in the home. Keep leashes handy in case firefighters need to rescue them.
- Keep pets in areas or rooms near entrances where firefighters can easily find them.
- Affix a pet alert window cling. Write down the number of pets inside your house and attach the static cling to a front window. This critical information saves rescuers time when locating your pets. Make sure to keep the number of pets listed on them updated.
- Keep Your Information Updated – Firefighters are familiar with pet alert window clings so keep the number of pets listed on them updated. Knowing the accurate number of pets in the house aids rescuers in finding all of your pets and provides important information so that firefighters do not put themselves or others in danger when rescuing pets.
- Install Smoke Alarms and Ensure They Always Have Working Batteries – Change the batteries in your smoke alarm at least once a year and test it monthly to ensure it is functioning.
- Consider Monitored Smoke Detection Services – Home monitoring services can provide an extra layer of protection for your pet by quickly alerting the fire department if there is an emergency.
BE PREPARED. Have A PLAN.
- Know their hiding places! During a fire your pets will be terrified, and they’ll most likely run to in the places they feel most safe. If you don’t know their common hiding places, you could run out of time to save your furry, scaly, or feathered friend.
- Map it out! Find their hidey-holes and niches. Map these out on a piece of paper, and include the map in your fire escape plan.
- Always evacuate your pets on a leash or in a pet carrier. Pets will panic at the smell of smoke, and may bolt when outside, making them impossible to find.
- Prepare an emergency kit for each of your animals. The kit should contain your pet’s food, veterinary paperwork, prescription medications, and an updated photo and description of each animal. You may have to board your pet at a kennel or other facility until you get settled after a fire, and they will require proof that your pet has current vaccinations.
- Have an evacuation plan. If you have to evacuate your home, and you cannot return for a while, have a plan of action!
Get A Pet Alert Window Cling!
You can find them at Petco, and other pet stores. The ASPCA distributes free alert stickers on their website! It only takes a few seconds to request one! I just ordered ours, and it will be arriving soon.
You can also choose from a variety of window clings here.
Get out and stay out. If pets are still inside, every attempt will be made to rescue them. Firefighters have the training, equipment and breathing protection to be in that environment.” ~ Fire Marshall Baker
“Planning for unexpected emergencies like home fires and taking these precautions are an integral part of responsible pet ownership.”
None of us wants to believe that “those things” can happen to us, but the statistics speak for themselves. Accidents do happen. Faulty house wiring does occur. We are forgetful by nature. Mother Nature can be brutal, so we must be prepared.
Have a plan. Be proactive. Our curious critters can cause more damage than you realize!
Do you have eye for safety or are you blinded by bad habits?
United States Fire Administration