As I watched the late news last night, I saw a photo of the front of a house in the north end of Chesterfield...

As I watched the late news last night, I saw a photo of the front of a house in the north end of Chesterfield County fully engulfed. I was going to write an article that offered three educated guesses of the potential causes, but my first inclination was determined to be the cause.

From my observation, my thought was that the fire started on the outside of the home and progressed inside.

The house in north Chesterfield was destroyed on the outside and the inside, displacing the residents. A fire that starts on the outside will get a head start on inside smoke alarms, but the smoke will eventually reach the alarms. In this case, the home escape plan must involve rear or side exits. For home escape plans, one must consider primary exits being blocked by fire. A home escape plan should be practiced from time to time, with an exit being blocked.

The most important thing is to prevent a fire from occurring outside a home, which could block the way out.

Once vinyl siding ignites, it burns like gasoline. My immediate thought was that this fire was caused by improperly discarded smoking materials. I do not have statistics, but this has resulted in several residential fires in our region. A cigarette burns at 550 degrees Fahrenheit, which is more than enough heat to start a fire. Discarded smoking materials should be placed in a metal container. One of the deadliest fires in Chesterfield County’s history was caused by improperly discarded smoking materials.

There are, of course, other possible causes of residential fires. Following are some of the most common ones.

Fireplace ashes placed on the front porch can cause a residential fire. You should never put fireplace ashes in a paper or plastic bag, nor should you vacuum ashes without properly discarding the bag. Fireplace ashes maintain their heat for days after the fire. Fireplace or woodstove ashes should also be placed in a covered, metal container that should be kept away from the house and other combustibles.

If electricity can go to the front porch, this is a heat source that can cause a fire. Outdoor receptacles should be weatherproof. Porch lighting or outdoor ceiling fans can malfunction, causing a fire on the front porch. It is important that, if an electrical malfunction is noted, then the power must be de-energized to that circuit until repairs have been done.