Many homes have attached garages, in other words, the garage is connected directly to the house. Building codes have improved over the years, with minimum Sheetrock requirements being five-eights inches thick on the wall between the main living area and the garage. However, the older homes probably have one-half inch sheetrock dividing the home and the garage. Breaches in this particular wall can be very dangerous, in the event of a fire in the garage.
Concerning storage, the garage serves as the catchall for stuff. The problem comes when a person does not have an outside storage shed that is not connected to the residence. When no shed exists, everything gets stored in the garage. Everything might be defined as flammables, combustibles and pesticides, just to name a few.
It takes three things for a fire to occur: heat, fuel and oxygen. The oxygen level is adequate in room air, so let’s concentrate on the heat and fuel. Heat sources in the garage can be an electrical outlet, a light, a garage-door motor, a hot water heater or a lawn mower that has just been used. Fuel sources can be paper, plastics or the gasoline that is stored in a proper container. All is well unless something occurs that allows these three components to come together and cause a fire.
Most garages do not have smoke alarms, so a fire in the garage burns longer, without detection. Thicker sheetrock and fire-rated doors will slow the progress of a fire, but not stop it. In other words, there is still the chance of smoke and fire getting into the house. Another thing to consider is that some homes have a livable space above the garage.
What is the answer? First and foremost, it is vitally important that the garage be kept clean and uncluttered. If flammable and combustible liquids must be stored in an attached garage, then the safest answer is a flammable liquids locker. I spoke about pesticides earlier. It is important to store pesticides in an area where young children cannot get their little hands on them. Fix all electrical issues at the earliest possible convenience. If at all possible, let appliances or equipment that builds up heat to cool down before putting it back in the garage.
Since I ran a fire caused by this a number of years ago, I am going to mention it. When you clean the ashes out of a fireplace or a woodstove, do not place them in a paper bag. Ashes from a fireplace had been placed in a paper bag and sat on a workbench. Ashes must be placed in a metal container that is put outside of the house. As stated earlier, the garage is the catchall for everything that doesn’t rate storage in the house.
If your garage is attached to the house, you must work towards building or buying a storage shed that sits away from the house. If you do store flammable or combustible liquids in an attached garage, you must do everything possible to prevent a heat source from coming into contact with these containers. A fire in your garage means that one means of egress is gone. When determining your fire escape plan, you must look at the attached garage as closely as you look at your kitchen for the place where a fire will most likely occur. Do everything possible to minimize the possibilities.