It’s no wonder that garages are the one place in a home most prone to fire. We don’t often think about it, but a garage is an incredible safety hazard. Even if your garage door itself is in good condition and repair, the garage can be a fire hazard if things are not clean and organized properly. We often use our garages to store fuel, dangerous flammable chemicals, or piled trash such as stacks of newspaper, clothes, or other flammable materials.
With climate change intensifying wildfire season in California every year, it is more important than ever to fireproof your garage. By taking a well organized approach, you can eliminate fire hazards any time of year.
4 Potential Causes of a Garage Fire
1) Electrical Problems
Per the USFA (U.S. Fire Administration), electrical malfunctions are the number one cause of garage fires. This could be caused by old faulty electrical circuits or overloading electrical outlets.
Solution: Don’t use extension cords on a permanent basis. Keep your garage door opener plugged into an actual socket and avoid the use of daisy-chained surge protectors. If you live in an older home, you may wish to hire an electrician to inspect your wiring. Installing permanent lighting, instead of relying on extension cords and lamps will also add value to your garage.
A garage can be a great place to store your belongings. Let’s face it – we’ve all collected many things over the years and sometimes the best place to put something is your garage! But there’s one serious problem when it comes to clutter – it allows a fire to spread faster.
Solution: Declutter your garage! We tend to attach ourselves to old belongings and “hoard” unnecessary things. It’s common to shift extra belongings from one room to another before they are inevitably dumped in a garage, forgotten and ignored. Letting go of your stuff can be a real freeing experience, but if you have a considerable amount of stuff you need to keep, invest in matching, clear, clearly labeled storage bins, organized on shelves. Not only will they be less flammable, you will be able to easily access what you need in case of an emergency exit.
3) Flammable Liquids
Flammable liquids like oil, cleaning solutions and gasoline are all commonly stored in the garage. While the liquid itself is not inherently dangerous, it can be problematic if it were ignited by a spark or flame. Remember – the vapor coming off the liquids can also be flammable.
Solution: Try to store your flammable liquids away from your home or in a shed. Make sure they are clearly labeled and contained.
4) Propane Tanks
Just because it’s not grilling season yet doesn’t mean you can store your propane tanks in your garage until then. If the propane tank wasn’t sealed properly or is leaking, a small spark could ignite the air with disastrous results.
Solution: Propane tanks have been known to burn down homes. Don’t store them in your garage. If you have nowhere else to store them, you may want to consider not purchasing extra tanks. If you’d like to dispose of propane tanks or flammable liquids, consult your county’s guide for disposing of household hazardous waste (HHW). Sacramento County offers four dropoff locations.
Other Ways You Can Keep Your Garage Fire Free
One of the best ways to avoid a fire is taking the necessary steps to prevent one in the first place. But even so, it helps to have a few other measures in place should a fire start in your garage.
Garage fires are known to get out of hand quickly. Because they’re in the garage, they’re often not caught until it’s already too late, leading to faster spread, more injuries, and greater expense than fires starting in other areas of the home. Two great ways you can protect your garage and home from a fire:
– Always keep a fire extinguisher somewhere in your home or garage.
– Install a heart alarm in your garage. Certain garage door openers may have this feature already.
Lastly, remember, nothing is more important than your life. In the event of a fire that can’t be contained, get out quickly and call 911.