If you are like many homeowners, your garage serves two purposes. Your car or cars can sit in them. But it may also be the place where much of your home storage resides.
That can be a potentially dangerous mix, especially when you consider the following. Most garage fires start because of an electrical malfunction, and if a fire starts in the garage, it will likely take longer to discover it than if it starts in another part of your home.
Here are some of the things in the mix that create a greater potential for garage fires.
Start with the cars. Oil or gas can drip undetected and ultimately ignite. If you store other flammable liquids in the garage (gasoline, oil, other vehicle fluids, paint), they can create explosive vapors.
In most homes, water heaters or boilers are installed in the garage. They can create sparks and ignite fumes. If you have a gas water heater, is it mounted 18 inches above the floor per building code?
If you use the garage for your home projects, some of the materials and tools involved can complicate things as well.
So, what are some of the things you can do to minimize the potential of your garage becoming a fire hazard.
Start with the flammable liquids. If possible, find another place to store them – maybe in a shed separate from the garage. If that’s not possible, keep these items on shelves and away from appliances.
Only plug one charging appliance at any time in an outlet. If you are charging or powering an appliance in the garage, do not use an extension cord.
Do not use carpets or rugs on the garage floor.
Never fill portable gasoline containers when you are inside the garage.
If you want to put an alarm system in the garage, consider a heat alarm rather than a smoke alarm. A heat alarm will sound if the temperature rises too high. Smoke alarms in garages can sound because of a change in temperature and humidity, as well as dust, fumes and insects.
Never use or install solid-fuel burning devices (wood, pellet, coal) in garages, workshops, or detached outbuildings and anywhere gasoline and other flammables vapors may be present.
And this may be the hardest suggestion of all. Keep your garage clean and tidy and remove any clutter.
Studies show that the predominance of garage fires occur in January and February. That would mean now may be the best time to make the effort to ensure your garage is as safe as possible.