Start Any Fires In Your Apartment Lately?

When I was in seventh grade, my mom thought it would be a nice idea for our Catholic family to light the candles on an Advent wreath every night before dinner during Advent Season.

The first night I had the honor of lighting the candle. After striking a match—and making the mistake of holding it completely vertical—the flame started to quickly burn its way towards my fingers. Naturally, I panicked, dropping the lit match and temporarily setting the tablecloth on fire.

We never lit an Advent wreath again.

So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I’ve come close to starting two fires in my apartment.

On one of those occasions, the origin of the would-be fire was on the stove. Let it be known that this really was not my fault.

I was boiling a pot of water and—as some of you may remember from a previous post (12/2/2010)—went onto my balcony to water the flowers. Ten minutes later, I was still on my balcony, locked out and helplessly watching this pot of water continue to boil.

I don’t want to recount the entire embarrassing ordeal for a second time—I prefer to do so at parties and various other public functions—but suffice it to say, I had to drape my body over the balcony railing and force a very awkward first encounter with our new neighbors to get inside the apartment and prevent The Advent Wreath Disaster, Part 2.

While I was lucky, apartment fires happen far too often—and typically they begin on the stove. And as I discovered while writing IRO Insider for the July issue of units, there is an easy and cost-effective way to prevent them.

A canister the size of a tuna can—known as an automatic stovetop fire suppressor—is designed to put out stovetop fires caused by unattended cooking, which is the leading cause of multifamily housing fires (67.5 percent), according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Advent wreaths might be the second.

Independent Rental Owners Frank Barefield and Brent Sobol have used this product for years, and both say they have never had a fire suppressor that didn’t put out a fire.

Attached magnetically to the range hood of a stove, the fire suppressor automatically pops open when a flame touches the bottom of the canister, releasing sodium bicarbonate powder that immediately extinguishes the flames.

The canisters take less than one minute to install, with one attached to the left side of the range hood and a second one on the right. The pair of canisters for each range hood costs less than $50 and have a five-year life span.

Fire extinguishers serve their purpose, but they are of no help when residents aren’t even aware there is a fire—or, in my case, are trapped outside behind two French doors. A stovetop fire suppressor, on the other hand, would have come to the rescue.

As for the Advent wreath debacle, I'm afraid the fate of the tablecloth would have remained the same.

For more on stovetop fire suppressors, check out the July issue of units, which mailed July 8.

Have stovetop fire suppressors prevented thousands of dollars in damage to your community? E-mail your experience to me at lauren@naaahq.org.