Not a week goes by that we do not hear about a fire in our region. The most recent fire occurred in Northern Chesterfield. It appears that the fire started on a rear deck, with extension into the attic and subsequently into the rest of the home. This fire displaced a family of four, and though I have not heard the cause, I think that we can still talk about a fire like this one. Even though every fire is different in some way all fires have some commonalities, especially in the major components of heat, fuel, and oxygen.
As I talk about decks in general, I want you to zero in on the deck or balcony that is attached to your home, whatever that looks like. So, what are the heat sources on or around your deck? Some of you may have a charcoal or gas grill on your deck, realizing that grills are prohibited on apartment balconies. Though not prohibited, grills on decks are frowned upon because of the potential and probability of a fire on the deck being higher when the grill is used on a wooden deck.
Electrical outlets and lights are heat sources that could lead to a fire. It is important that wiring and wiring components be maintained. If an outlet is malfunctioning, replace it. The same goes for an outside light. Keep in mind that outside electrical components are subjected to weather on a regular basis and have the potential of breaking down at any time.
What we put on our deck could be a heat source. I spoke about the grill, but the grill is not the only potential heat source. Fireplace ashes placed in an improper container and then placed on a deck will burn your deck right off of your home. Improperly discarded cigarette butts will have the same effect.
Remember that I have told you that a cigarette burns at 550 degrees Fahrenheit. Even though the ashes or cigarettes are not discarded on the deck, that does not alleviate the problem. If fireplace ashes are placed in a plastic trash can, the trash can will catch fire and spread to a deck. If cigarettes are discarded in a mulch bed that surrounds a deck, the fire will spread to the deck.
Your wooden deck is one of the fuels that may begin to burn. A common burn pattern is that a fire will grow up and out from the point of origin. If the siding of your house is vinyl, it will burn like gasoline once exposed to fire. From there, it is headed to the soffit, which leads to your attic. Keep in mind: even if your home is protected by a proper number of properly located smoke alarms, the fire has escaped detection by smoke alarms. It is not until the fire drops down from the attic or enters through a different opening that smoke alarms will activate. You know that practiced home escape plan that I have written about many times? In this type of fire, you will lose the exit that goes onto the deck or balcony, as well as the windows on the entire back of the house. If your rescue ladder is at one of these windows, it will need to be moved to the front. Doing this during a fire is practically impossible.
Fires that start in or on an outside, attached portion of your home will, most likely, get into your home. It is vitally important that you mitigate or deal with all potential fire causes. The fuel and oxygen are always present on an outside deck. The missing component is the heat source, which may be there, but is currently properly contained. Thankfully, no one was injured in the fire that prompted this article, but a family of four was displaced. Think about it.