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Clean out garage, safely store flammables

Whew! While you may be fully recovered from the record-breaking heat wave that hit the Pacific Northwest at the end of June, that doesn’t mean our vegetation has recovered. Even with faithful watering during those 100-plus degree days, many gardeners noted that some of their plants literally “fried” in the heat.

Add to that the stories of various 4th of July fires and the devastation of the British Columbia village of Lytton – the entire village engulfed in flames with residents having some 15 minutes to flee as a wildfire swept in and burned their village to the ground. Fire prevention is on our minds!

Here in Grays Harbor some of us live close to our neighbors, while others are surrounded by wildlife – either way, what each of us does, affects the other.

Taking care of flammables

Often cleaning out garages and sheds is considered a winter task. However, this is the time of year when we are in and out of these buildings monkeying with lawn mowers, working on projects, storing paint. So, if it’s been a while since you have cleaned out your garage or shed, do it now with safety in mind.

Perhaps you don’t have time or energy to clean out everything. For the sake of yourself and others, at least take a careful look at cleaning up and correctly storing any possible flammable items.

Garage fires tend to spread farther and cause more injuries and dollar loss than fires that start in all other areas of the home, according to the Federal emergency Management Agency, (FEMA).

Electrical malfunction is the leading cause of garage fires. So, while you are looking around your garage, take a look at your electrical system. Be alert to any smoky smells, tricky outlets or frayed wires – and address them immediately.

Here are some home safety tips to avoid those fires:

  • Store oil, gasoline, paints and varnishes in a shed away from your home.

  • Place oily rags in a metal container with a self-closing metal lid

  • Keep items that can burn on shelves away from appliances.

  • Plug only one charging appliance into an outlet.

  • Do not use an extension cord when charging an appliance.

As mentioned, one place of concern in the garage is for people who are using oil-based paints or who are refinishing furniture with things like linseed oils and other natural oils. Local fire departments have seen great losses from these items. And it can be from some project that was completed years ago! Wadded up rags that have some of the oil on them will start to decompose and as the oils break down, they can spontaneously combust! That’s why you should place oily rags in a metal container with a self-closing metal lid.

What’s on the Barbecue?

There’s nothing like hamburgers, hotdogs, salmon, chicken or steak hot off the grill! Summer is a great time to use your barbecue – and to review how to safely do so.

With safe barbecuing, it’s mostly about location, location, location!

Of course, never use your barbecue inside your house! This is a safety issue that tends to come up more often in the winter, but we mention it now just because of its devastating effects. Using a barbecue inside could be a fire issue, but is always a problem because of deadly carbon monoxide that is produced when burning charcoal and other fossil fuels.

Also, even if rain threatens to ruin your barbecue, never move the barbecue inside the garage – even with the door open. It’s a fire risk as well as a potential carbon monoxide risk.

Even as you grill outside, make sure the grill isn’t too close to your house or other any structure that could catch fire. Having it on your wooden deck isn’t even a great idea! In fact, make sure wherever you locate your barbecue that it’s on steady ground and that you have quick access to water or sand.

Now look overhead. Any low hanging branches over the BBQ?

Our shared backyard

In Grays Harbor we are all so lucky to have so many outdoor places to recreate! Whether you are in your backyard, or at a local lake or river or on the coast itself, be aware of your surrounds and the latest fire regulations.

If you are at the beach, remember:

  • All fires must be 100 feet from dune grass and vegetation.

  • Fires are to be no bigger than 3 feet high and 3 feet in diameter.

  • Do not leave fires unattended.

  • Take a shovel with you and put your fire completely out before leaving.

In fact, wherever you are – on a picnic or camping in one of our lovely parks –always be very sure that you never leave a fire unattended and put it out thoroughly before you leave.

Surprise about smoke alarms!

Did you know that even if you have been routinely putting new batteries in your smoke alarms they might not work when you need them? It’s something that is not talked about a lot.

Even if the little button indicates your battery works, it’s possible the smoke alarm doesn’t! That’s because most smoke alarm units need to be replaced every 10 years. What happens is that the sensors, having been exposed to years of dust, pet hair and steam, often no longer work.

When was the last time you purchased new smoke alarms? It is worth the investment!


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