Improper use of stoves and fireplaces is particularly dangerous in old buildings


Improper use of stoves and fireplaces is particularly dangerous in old buildings

Firefighters warn that if a sofa or armchair catches fire from a cigarette butt, the room will be filled with toxic smoke in just 3 minutes and the whole room will be on fire in 10-15 minutes. Even if the fire doesn’t spread, too much smoke in the air can cause people in the room to lose consciousness and suffocate. Safe home renovation and proper maintenance of heating installations can help prevent disasters in apartment buildings.

Ignorance and disregard of fire safety rules and careless handling of fire-starting appliances by residents are the main causes of fires in resident premises. According to the Fire Protection and Rescue Department (FPRD), last year most fires in Lithuanian apartment buildings were caused by faults in electrical equipment and wiring (22.1%), as well as faults in the installation of stoves, fireplaces and chimneys and their misuse (21.4%), and finally by people’s careless handling fire (21.0%). These factors also remained the main causes of fires at the beginning of this year.

Negligent attention to safety

Justinas Laurinavičius, head of “Pastatų meistrai”, a “Civinity” company, says that it is often the incorrect use of furnaces and faulty chimneys that lead to fires in old buildings.

“Seasonality has an impact on fire risk in case of fireplaces, but people often use them even in the warm season, during the cooler evenings, or just to make their homes cosy,” says J. Laurinavičius stresses that residents often lack awareness and take fire safety lightly. – When carrying out maintenance work on such buildings, we have repeatedly noticed that unauthorised chemicals have been injected into the chimney, that materials of the wrong flammability are used, that different types of fuel are used with the same chimney, or that unauthorised connections are made. Finally, when renovating an apartment, some people connect an chimney that haven’t been used for a while or install new fireplaces without an official project. In doing so, they fail to carry out the necessary checks and do not consult the building administrator.”

For its part, “Civinity”, as the building administrator, carries out preventive cleaning of chimneys at least twice a year, usually before and during the heating season. In old buildings, the owner of the premises must provide additional safety equipment such as a smoke detector or fire extinguisher. Meanwhile, fire safety in new buildings is ensured by the installation of a fire extinguishing and fire detection system in the design, which activates the fire extinguishing equipment in the event of a fire.

Helping their customers

According to J. Laurinavičius, upon receiving news of a fire, the company’s specialists immediately go to the scene, help the victims to repair the damage to property, remove burnt furniture, etc.

“We had one case recently in Vilnius Old town. The residents of the apartment installed a fireplace and chimney on their own, which caught fire due to installation errors, and the roof of the house burnt down. Our technicians helped to temporarily cover the roof to protect the indoor areas from precipitation, helped to take out the rubbish and clean the floors. In any case, we give priority to humanity in everything – we try to calm people down, make sure they have a place to stay, and we are ready to provide shelter and other necessary assistance”, says J. Laurinavičius.

Practical tips on how to deal with a fire

To minimise the risk of this devastating disaster, it is recommended that everyone should educate their children about fire prevention and talk to their families in advance about an escape plan in case of a fire. It is also important not to store furniture, rubbish or other foreign objects in the common areas of blocks of flats, such as stairwells or basements.

The most important things to do if you notice that your flat or appartment or your neighbours’ flat is on fire:

  • Call the general emergency number 112 immediately and alert the other occupants of the building.
  • If a TV or other electrical appliance has caught fire in your apartment, unplug it and throw a non-flammable cloth over it. If the fire is not large, it is best to use a powder-based fire extinguisher.
  • In the event of oil or other grease catching fire, the cooker should be covered with a lid or a non-combustible cloth and the cooker turned off. The most important rule is that hot grease must not be extinguished with water.
  • If you think you cannot put out the fire yourself, or if there is a high temperature and smoke build-up or if the fire has spread, evacuate immediately and call for help. If possible, close doors and windows to prevent the airflow from accelerating the spread of smoke and fire and cover your mouth and nose with a damp cloth. Do not use the elevator to evacuate, take the stairs.
  • If you see or have been told that your neighbour’s flat is on fire, you should also leave the building immediately, but before doing so, make sure that the access route to the outside is safe. Even a small amount of smoke can be harmful to your health, and a rapidly spreading fire can block your escape route. In case of heavy smoke build-up in the stairwell, stay in your apartment and cover the door and ventilation openings with damp rags. Go near a window or out on a balcony so firefighters can see you, and if the fire is at night, turn on a light source such as a mobile phone.
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