Beware of flammable items in your house

Wednesday April 06 2011
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Items such as curtains, plastic plates, wooden furniture and carpets can easily catch a fire.

There is one nightmare that everyone fears to fall victim to. However, it’s becoming a common disaster due to the high level of public ignorance on issues regarding fires.

Fires are known to cause massive and unexpected losses of property and lives. Most people who have had their houses affected by fire can testify to this.

Ms Annette Namakula, a resident of Kampala says her ordeal of how within minutes, her house caught fire destroying property worth millions. Most house fires are mainly caused by cigarette remains, unattended candles and general negligence of fire around the house.

She adds that the reason why fire spreads fast in some homes than in others is basically due to the storage of flammable items around fire. Today, there are people who buy and store petrol, diesel and paraffin in their home or near fire yet these are the most flammable liquids that have caused a grief to many.

Highly flammable material and substances
Flammable substances are those gases, liquids and solids that will ignite and continue to burn in air if exposed to a source of ignition.

“Any substance that can burn is considered combustible. This includes common materials found in the houses which are not often thought of as a hazard, such as paper towels or stacks of journals and notebooks. Efforts must be exerted to avoid situations where these items might become involved in or contribute to a fire,” says Mr Vincent Ssemakula, the fire brigade officer at Fire Uganda.

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Paint (with kerosene)
The inclusion of kerosene in some paints adds that sparkle on the wall and makes the cleaning of the walls easy. But this is one item that any home owner should beware of since it has proven to be a highly flammable item in a home.It is important to recognise what constitutes an ignition hazard. Many fires occur because some people are unaware or are careless when working with flammables around potential ignition sources.

According to Moses Musoke, a hardware dealer in Nakasero, paraffin paints are highly flammable. Therefore, items such as candles shouldn’t be put near walls.

Electric appliances near combustible objects
Electrical heaters, particularly bar radiators, can easily burn down a house all by themselves. Appliances such as heaters should never be within one metre of any flammable material. They should also never be covered by anything, or left running unattended.

Hair products
This may seem unreal to some people but some hair products are highly flammable and should be kept away from fire.

Curtains
Most of the fires that emanate in either the kitchen stove or a burning candle lead to disaster, especially if they happen to be near hanging curtains.

According to Mr Joshua Mugoya, a curtain designer at Iran Permanent Trade Centre Ltd, there are materials that catch fire faster than others.

A curtain made from nylon and polyester fabrics will catch and spread fire faster than a cotton curtain. However, curtains and fabrics made of such material should be kept away from fire.

Wood and plastic
Whenever the issue of fire arises, wood and plastic are the most common objects that are known for being prone to fire and have good combustion. These are the most flambé solids and proper storage should be considered.

Cooking and hot oil
Ms Namakula explains that in her case the fire that destroyed her property was caused by unattended cooking and hot oil.

According Mr Ssemakula, these are dangerous sources of serious fires. They occur mainly in kitchens, barbecues and other areas where there are a lot of additional flammable materials or electrical fittings around.

He advises that if one is stepping out of the kitchen for just a minute, one should turn off all the burners on the range because fire ignites fast in cooking areas, especially the unattended ones.
“The most horrifying, tragic and much too common causes of fire involve children getting terribly burned while handling flammable cooking materials. The materials spill, ignite on hot surfaces like cooking elements and create major fires,” he explains. Mr Ssemakula adds that the only way to avoid these situations is to make sure they never happen by prevention measures.

Solvent dyes liquid and powder form
Although these items may never find their way to some homes, proper handling its highly considered since they are known to be combustible. Some of these items have high level of flammable substances such as methane and ethanol which should be stored far from possible ignition.

Carpets and area rugs
When it comes to carpets, both woolen and plastic carpets are prone to fire, especially if hot charcoal or a cigarette is dropped on them.

Cigarettes
Mr Semakula says that most Uganda fires are caused by some peoples’ ignorance. Some smokers have a careless way of disposing of their cigarettes. They do not even bother to extinguish the cigarettes before throwing them.

Most the above substances are important in a home because some of them are used regularly. Therefore, when using them, one should be aware that they are prone to fire.

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