Quick question, and it should be easy enough. What do your nail polish, hair spray, oven cleaner, furniture stripper, antifreeze, fluorescent light bulbs, lighter fluid and batteries in your remote control all have in common?
They are all capable of individually igniting a chemical fire emergency situation inside your home. Put them all together and you’ve got the potential for things to turn into a HAZMAT disaster area associated with the kind of chemical fire emergency you might normally reserve for a factory or other commercial enterprise. The scary and perhaps surprising truth is that most homes in America contain enough chemicals to easily turn a residential fire emergency into a dangerous HAZMAT disaster should the elements of a perfect chemical fire storm come together.
The first thing to keep in mind when dealing with a chemical fire emergency in your home is that you don’t want to attack it with water. Trying to put out a chemical fire with water is only going to make things worse, and if you’ve already got a chemical fire to deal with then things have already gotten bad enough. That is exactly why you should equip your home with a small fire extinguisher that is quickly within reach of any room in the house containing potentially dangerous chemicals.
Which, as we have pointed out, means it should not take you more than a couple of minutes to get your hands on a fire extinguisher if you are in your bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, family room, garage, attic, basement and any outdoor area where you regularly cook out. In other words, yes, the purest of home safety matters when it comes to chemical fires is making sure you have multiple fire extinguishers precisely placed throughout the home.
Of course, even the directive to to make sure you have fire extinguishers handy comes with a caveat or two. In the first place, even twenty fire extinguishers isn’t going to help put out a chemical fire unless everybody in the house knows how to operate them. Even more important is that even if you know how to use a fire extinguisher, you should get someone to call 911 as soon as possible. You want to get professional help before a chemical fire can get out of hand because one it does, the result is likely to be far worse than a grease fire or a fireplace flame that got away from you.
Chemical fires are nothing to screw around with. So stay away from water, grab the nearest fire extinguisher and position yourself somewhere between five and ten feet from the flames. Spray the fire extinguisher in a rapid motion that takes the effluence spewing forth through the nozzle from one side of the fire to the other and then back again. If you are able to extinguish the chemical fire completely, wait for the fire department to clean things up after making sure they know what they are dealing with.
Do not attempt to clean up a chemical fire by yourself.
If you are not able to extinguish the chemical fire on your own, either leave it behind and transport yourself to safety at the first sign you are in over your head or immediately get out of the way once the professionals arrive.