How to Properly Extinguish a Fire

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 178,727
    Rob Neale, Deputy Superintendent of the United States Fire Administration, talks about how to properly extinguish a fire.

    Rob Neale: Hi! I am Rob Neale, Deputy Superintendent of the United States Fire Administration, in Emmitsburg, Maryland. We are talking about how to build a fire and fireplace safety. We are going to talk about how to maintain a fire once you get it going.

    We have had this nice fire burning for a little while, and as you can see, it's starting to die down a little bit. So how do we get it back up to where we want a nice roaring fire that will keep us nice and warm? We always need to have a set of tools nearby that will be very handy for us to use. This particular toolset, you can buy it at any hardware store or you could buy it at a Home & Hearth store. But make sure you get a good solid set. Now, this particular set comes with four tools. The first is a little broom, and the purpose of the broom is simply to sweep excess ash or embers that might have died out, back into the fire pit. The second tool is a poker; it's got a little hook on it for moving the logs around. In fact, I am going to use it right now to help us with this fire. You will see the fire starting to die down a little bit; we have got lots of char on the wood and some charcoal building up in there. If I take the poker and give it a good smack, you will see that it opens up the logs and exposes more of the embers to the oxygen that's in the air. And that's what helps get the fire going nice and bright.

    Now, the third tool that comes in very handy is a set of thongs. I certainly don't want to reach into the firebox and get myself burned, so I can use this pair of thongs to grab this log right here, set it up there, right where I want it.

    At this point, we can add more dry seasoned wood to build that fire up. One of the things we want to be careful of though is, not to build the fire too big. Part of the good efficient burning is to make sure that there is lots of air circulation around in the firebox. So if we over stuff that firebox, we can decrease the effectiveness of the fire, to the point where it will actually burn itself out.

    Now that we have had the fire burning a while, we want to put it out. We don't want to leave this fire like this, because that's a dangerous situation. So how do we control it? Well, with the simple tools that we have, we can take this poker and we can open up the fire like this, and that will help get rid of some of that immediate burning. And you will see that it starts to die out very quickly with that. But another trick that I might want to use is get a little spray bottle. Little water spritzer and spray a few little sprays of water in there, right on the flames, right on the wood, and that will cause the fire to dampen down and eventually go out.

    Once the fire is out, then we will be able to take out those excess ashes, and we will be able to dump them outside, in a very safe environment. Now, don't ever take those ashes out and put them in a paper bag, don't ever put them in a cardboard box. What you need to do is get yourself a metal can, a little shovel, a metal shovel, like is included in this particular toolset, and you can scoop out those ashes and put them into that metal container and take them outside, away from the house. So don't ever leave this fire unattended, make sure that it's out, all the way out, when you get ready to leave. So in our next segment we are going to talk about some of the things you can do to maintain your fireplace in a safe operating condition.