Safety & Prevention

10 Tips for Fire Safety

1. Install Smoke Detectors: WORKING SMOKE DETECTORS can alert you to a fire in your home in time for you to escape, even if you are sleeping. Install smoke detectors on every level of your home, including the basement, and outside each sleeping area. If you sleep with the door closed, install one inside your sleeping area as well.

Test detectors every month following the manufacturer’s directions, and replace the batteries in the spring and fall when you change you clocks, or whenever a detector “chirps” to signal low battery power. Never “borrow” a smoke detector’s battery for another use – a disabled detector can’t save your life. Replace detectors that are more than 10 years old.

2. Plan Your Escape from Fire: IF A FIRE BREAKS OUT in your home, you have to get out fast. Prepare for a fire emergency by sitting down with your family and agreeing on an escape plan. Be sure that everyone knows at least two unobstructed exits – doors and windows – from every room. (If you live in an apartment building, do not include elevators in your escape plan.) Decide on a meeting place outside where everyone will meet after they escape. Have your entire household practice your escape plan at least twice a year. Download the Home Escape Plan and Escape Plan Grid located in the City Focus banner on the right.

3. Keep An Eye on Smokers: Careless smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths in North America. Smoking in bed or when you are drowsy could be deadly. Provide smokers with large, deep non-tip ashtrays and soak butts with water before discarding them. Before going to bed or leaving home after someone has been smoking, check under and around cushions and upholstered furniture for smoldering cigarettes.

4. Cook Carefully: Never leave cooking unattended. Keep cooking areas clear of combustibles and wear clothes with short, rolled-up or tight-fitting sleeves when you cook. Turn pot handles inward on the stove where you can’t bump them and children can’t grab them. Enforce a “Kid-Free Zone” three feet around your kitchen stove. If grease catches fire in a pan, slide a lid over the pan to smother the flames and turn off the heat. Leave the lid on until cool.

5. Give Space Heaters Space: Keep portable heaters and space heaters at least three feet from anything that can burn. Keep children and pets away from heaters and never leave heaters on when you leave home or go to bed.

6. Remember Matches and Lighters Are Tools, Not Toys: In a child’s hand, matches and lighters can be deadly. Use only child-resistant lighters up high, where small children can’t see or reach them, preferably in a locked cabinet. Teach your children that matches and lighters are tools, not toys, and should be used only by adults or with adult supervision. Teach young children to tell a grownup if they find matches or lighters; older children should bring matches or lighters to an adult immediately.

7. Cool A Burn: Run cool water over a burn for 10 to 15 minutes. Never put butter or any grease on a burn. If the burned skin blisters or is charred, see a doctor immediately. Never use ice.

8. Use Electricity Safely: If an electrical appliance smokes or has an unusual smell, unplug it immediately, then have it serviced before using it again. Replace any electrical cord that is cracked or frayed. Don’t overload extension cords or run them under rugs. Don’t tamper with your fuse box or use improper size fuses.

9. Crawl Low Under Smoke: During a fire, smoke and poisonous gases rise with the heat. The air is cleaner near the floor. If you encounter smoke while you are escaping from fire, use an alternate escape route.

10. Stop, Drop and Roll: If your clothes catch fire, don’t run. Stop where you are, drop to the ground, cover your face with your hands, and roll over and over to smother the flames.

Address Signs

In an emergency, home addresses must be clearly visible. Remember, If we can’t find you, we can’t help you!

In an emergency every second counts! Make sure your address numbers are clearly visible for the Fire and Police Departments to see. Install a light above your numbers. Use large, plain numbers, not hard to read lettering. Use contrasting colors, not ones that blend into the color of your house. Remember, whether you live in the city or country, you should identify your property clearly.

The Defiance Fire Department currently sells green address number signs at the central station. You may call 419-782-2771 to order a sign. The signs can usually be picked up the same day.

Burning Safety

Spring and summer are considered the “Grass Fire Season”. With a little common sense and by following some basic rules, you can keep your fires under control and hopefully you will not need to call us!

You are open burning any time you light an outdoor fire. In the past, many materials including leaves, tree trimmings, tires, and construction debris were routinely burned outdoors. Because of toxic fumes, people with breathing difficulties and maintaining air quality standards, laws have been enacted to limit many kinds of open burning with special EPA permits. Municipalities are restricted areas for open burning unless it falls under that permitted by EPA and state law: cooking for human consumption (barbecues, campfires, cookouts), heating tar, welding and acetylene torches, smudge pots, and heating for warmth of outdoor workers and strikers (use of clean wood in 55 gallon drum). By notifying the Ohio EPA in advance, ceremonial fires can be set for limited periods of time. (Fires are limited in size to 5′ X 5′ and may not burn for more than three hours).

With prior permission from the EPA, firefighters are allowed to burn buildings etc. for training purposes. City residents are allowed to burn campfires in a 3′ X 3′ area with clean burning wood. These fires would be for recreational purposes or cooking only and the fire department should be notified ahead of time in case they are called out to enforce any open burning laws. Remember to make sure any campfire is monitored continually and fully extinguished before you leave.

If you need more information or have any questions, please email Chief Bill Wilkins ( or call the fire division at or (419) 782-2771.

Burning Regulations Per Ordinance 1511
No person or property owner shall cause or allow open burning in a restricted area except as provided in the following:

• Cooking for human consumption

• Heating tar, welding, acetylene torches, highway safety flares, heating for warmth of outdoor workers and strikers, smudge pots and similar occupational needs.

Fires allowed in the above, shall not be used for waste disposal purposes and shall be of minimum size sufficient for their intended purpose; the fuel shall be chosen to minimize the generation and emission of air contaminants.

Open burning permission for other purposes not listed above can be made through the EPA.

Bonfires & Outdoor Rubbish Fires
Burning of rubbish shall be prohibited except in approved incinerators. Bonfires may be permitted only under the following conditions and subject to the air pollution provisions listed under this chapter.

A person shall not kindle or maintain any bonfire or authorize any such fire to be kindled or maintained on any premises without having obtained a permit or other proper authorization from the Fire Official. All permits shall be requested by and issued to the owner of the land upon which the bonfire is to be kindled.

A person shall not kindle or maintain any bonfire or authorize any such fire to be kindled or maintained unless:

• The location is approved by the Fire Official and is not less than fifty feet from the structure and adequate provision is made to prevent fire from spreading to within fifty feet of any structure; or

• The fire is contained in an approved burner located safely not less than fifteen feet from any structure.

Fuel for bonfires shall consist of seasoned dry wood only and shall be ignited with a small quantity of paper only. Bonfires shall not contain any rubbish, garbage, trash, any material made of or coated with rubber, plastic, leather, or petroleum-based materials and shall not contain any flammable or combustible liquids. The allowable quantity of wood to be burnt shall be determined by the Fire Official and shall be based upon the fire safety requirements of the situation and the desirable duration of burn.

Bonfires shall be constantly attended by a competent person until such fire is extinguished. This person shall have fire extinguishing equipment readily available for use as deemed necessary by the Fire Official. The Fire Official may prohibit any or all bonfires when atmospheric conditions or local circumstances make such fire hazardous or which are or could be offensive or objectionable due to smoke or odor emissions.

The Fire Official shall order the extinguishing, by the permit holder or the Fire Division, of any bonfire which creates or adds to a hazardous or objectionable situation.

Whoever violates any provision of this chapter is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree and shall be fined not more than $500 or imprisoned not more than sixty days, or both.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless and potentially dangerous gas. It is a by-product from the incomplete burning of carbon-containing fuels such as coal, gasoline, kerosene, natural gas, oil and wood. You can’t see or smell it, but carbon monoxide can be as serious a threat in your home as it is in your automobile.

Every home should have carbon monoxide and smoke detectors installed at strategic locations to alert occupants of danger from either hazard. Properly installed carbon monoxide detectors can alert people by sounding a warning before carbon monoxide levels in the blood become dangerously high.

Each year hundreds of people are killed and thousands injured as a result of exposure to carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide (CO) causes more accidental poisonings in America than any other chemical substance.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms can include dizziness, nausea, headache, weakness, loss of muscle control, chest tightness, heart fluttering, sleepiness, redness of the skin, confusion, vomiting, and diarrhea. Carbon monoxide poisoning should be suspected if more than one member of the family is ill and if they feel better after being away from the home for a period of time.

People who suspect they have been exposed to carbon monoxide should immediately seek fresh air. If symptoms linger, they should see their doctor quickly.

To avoid problems, homeowners should make an annual inspection of all their fuel burning systems, gas appliances, and fireplaces for proper combustion and ventilation.

Chimney and flue pipes should be clear of cracks and ill-fitting seams. All gas flames, either of heating systems or kitchen ranges, should be blue in color. A yellow flame or a flame that is excessively high, noisy, and sputtering indicates improper combustion and possible unsafe levels of emissions.

Charcoal should never be used indoors, especially in a fireplace. Wood burning can also be hazardous if the fireplace flue is not clear, or if a wood-burning stove is not vented.

Gas ovens or ranges should never be used to heat a room. During the winter, many residents insulate windows and doors to prevent drafts. Prolonged use of a gas oven or portable heater in an insulated area will diminish the supply of oxygen and generate carbon monoxide that can reach dangerous levels.

Tornado Safety

When a tornado is coming, you have only a short amount of time to make life-or-death decisions. Advance planning and quick response are the keys to surviving a tornado.

Before a Tornado Hits…
Conduct tornado drills each tornado season.

Designate an area in the home as a shelter, and practice having everyone in the family go there in response to a tornado threat.

Discuss with family members the difference between a “tornado watch” and a “tornado warning.”

Contact your local emergency management office or American Red Cross Chapter (419-782-0136) for more information on tornadoes.

Have disaster supplies on hand.
• Flashlight and extra batteries
• Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
• First aid kit and manual
• Emergency food and water
• Non-electric can opener
• Essential medicines
• Cash and credit cards
• Sturdy Shoes

Develop an emergency communication plan.

In case family members are separated from one another during a tornado (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.

Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the “family contact.” After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.

Tornado Watches & Warnings:
A tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service when tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms. This is time to remind family members where the safest places within your home are located, and listen to the radio or television for further developments.

A tornado warning is issued when a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.

Learn these tornado danger signs
• An approaching cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible.
• Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still.
• Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.

Mobile Homes:
Mobile homes are particularly vulnerable. A mobile home can overturn very easily even if precautions have been taken to tie down the unit. When a tornado warning is issued, take shelter in a building with a strong foundation. If shelter is not available, lie in a ditch or low-lying area a safe distance away from the unit.

During a tornado…
If at home
• Go at once to the basement, storm cellar, or the lowest level of the building.
• If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway or a smaller inner room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet.
• Get away from the windows.
• Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they tend to attract debris.
• Get under a piece of sturdy furniture such as a workbench or heavy table or desk and hold on to it.
• Use arms to protect the head and neck.
• If in a mobile home, get out and find shelter elsewhere.

If at work or school
• Go to the basement or to an inside hallway at the lowest level.
• Avoid places with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums, cafeterias, large hallways, or shopping malls.
• Get under a piece of sturdy furniture such as a workbench or heavy table or desk and hold on to it.
• Use arms to protect the head and neck.

If outdoors
• If possible, get inside a building.
• If shelter is not available or there is no time to get indoors, lie in a ditch or low-lying area or crouch near a strong building. Be aware of the potential for flooding.
• Use arms to protect head and neck.

If in a car
• Never try to out drive a tornado in a car or truck.
• Tornadoes can change direction quickly and can lift up a car or truck and toss it through the air.
• Get out of the car immediately and take shelter in a nearby building.
• If there is no time to get indoors, get out of the car and lie in a ditch or low-lying area away from the vehicle. Be aware of the potential for flooding.

Winter Fire Safety

The high cost of home heating fuels and utilities has caused many Americans to search for alternate sources of home heating. The use of wood burning stoves is growing, space heaters are selling rapidly, or coming out of storage. Fireplaces are burning more wood and man-made logs.

All of these supplementary heat measures can be good. But they are also a major contributing factor in many residential fires. Many of these fires are preventable. The following fire safety tips can help you maintain a fire safe home this winter.

Kerosene Heaters
Be sure your heater is in good working condition. Inspect exhaust ports for carbon buildup. Be sure the heater has an emergency shut off that operates in case the heater is tipped over.

• Never use fuel-burning appliances without proper room venting. Burning fuel (kerosene, coal, or propane) produces deadly fumes, mostly in the form of carbon monoxide.

• Use ONLY the fuel recommended by the heater manufacturer. NEVER INTRODUCE A FUEL INTO A UNIT NOT DESIGNED FOR THAT TYPE OF FUEL.

• Keep kerosene and other flammable liquids stored in approved metal containers, in well-ventilated storage areas, outside of the house.

• NEVER fill the heater while it is hot or in operation. When refueling an oil or kerosene unit, avoid overfilling. Be careful with cold fuel, for it may expand in the tank as it warms up.

• Keep young children safely away from space heaters–especially when they are wearing nightgowns or other loose clothing that can be easily ignited.

• When using a fuel-burning appliance in the bedroom, be sure there is proper ventilation to prevent a build up of carbon monoxide.

Wood Stoves and Fireplaces
Wood stoves and fireplaces are becoming a very common heat source in homes. Careful attention to safety can minimize their fire hazard. To use them safely:

• Be sure the stove or fireplace is installed properly. Wood stoves should have adequate clearance from combustible surfaces, and proper floor support and protection.

• Wood stoves should be of good quality, solid construction and proper design, and should be UL listed.

• Have the chimney inspected annually and cleaned if necessary, especially if it has not been used for some time.

• Do not use flammable liquids to start or accelerate any fire.

• Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace opening to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out and unwanted materials (or people) from going in.

• Don’t use excessive amounts of paper to build roaring fires in fireplaces. It is possible to ignite creosote in the chimney by overbuilding the fire.

• Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide.

• Keep flammable materials away from your mantel. A spark from the fireplace could easily ignite these materials.

• Before you go to sleep, be sure your fireplace fire is out. Never close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace! A closed damper will help the fire to heat up again and will force toxic carbon monoxide into the house.

• If synthetic logs are used, follow directions on the package. Never break a synthetic log apart to quicken the fire, and/or use more than one log at a time. They sometimes burn unevenly, releasing higher levels of carbon monoxide.