Today marks the one year anniversary of our fire. My family recalled the events of the day and the months to follow. Good stuff, bad stuff, life stuff. Divine chocolate ranked high as did the meals and support we felt from so many people. We visited our kitty's grave where my partner had buried her so far into the prairie a year ago that none of us had visited until today. It was a gorgeous, Wisconsin fall day.. I cried as I finally told her and my family how sorry I was that I didn't notice the dryer was on fire before I left the house that day. I had turned it off before leaving and it gave no sign of being on fire, but that didn't change anything. I don't tell you this because I want you sad; I tell you this so you can understand that there are things you can do to make efforts to ensure the safety of your home and your loved ones against devastating loss. Even what is deemed a "small" loss is only in the eyes of the insurance holders. My cat, my pictures, my sons' drawings from their childhood possessed no monetary value but they were the most painful losses.
Partner and I have followed the fires in our area this past year with heightened attention. We have made contact with families and have provided food, money and clothing. We have some things we want to share with you:
1. Check your insurance policy. Do the work and read it. Call your agent for clarification. Ask them if the company were to file a third party claim to recoup some of the damages, would they postpone making your home whole again during this pursuit? Have them show you where that is clear.
2. Check your appliances online a couple times of year. Keep a simple 3x5 card somewhere with a list of your small appliances and large appliances and their make and model number. Here's the deal, recalls only happen when they hit critical mass but there's plenty on line about problems with your appliances before that. Recently, I checked my toaster and found it had started numerous house fires as it did not "pop up" and homeowners forgot they were toasting bread. I unplugged it everyday until I replaced it.
3. If you buy a new appliance, fill out the warranty and send it in. If there is a recall for any reason (usually safety), you will be notified.
4. Read your washer and especially dryer manual for cleaning and maintenance instructions. Few people understand that dryers need to be cleaned and maintained a certain way and dryer fires due to lint build up is wildly common.
5. Have your ducts cleaned once a year. We used our local "Dirty Ducks" and it was surprisingly affordable. Not only is it better for your home, air and nose, they will check to make sure some critter hasn't built a home in your vents and airways that can cause problems. I see coupons for them often in fliers.
6. If you are a renter, check with your landlord that things are up to code. Research local advocacy groups for renters to find out what a landlord's requirements are to bring them to code (smoke alarms, venting, cleaning ducts, dryer maintenance, etc.)
7. We've given up burning candles. Period. Insurance agents were very clear that the heightened interest in home aroma has marked a substantial increase in home fires. I loved candles and burned them right up until the fire. I even received a couple of high-end candles for our house warming party. I simply took the lids off of them but never lit them. If you are fond of aromas in your home, sachets are very effective, delightful and affordable!
8. Don't put a word burning stove in your garage. You've been warned. I mean this.
9. Don't buy old appliances. Period. Get trusted appliances from trusted sources. We've seen three fires this year in our home town from people buying old freezers to store food in and then set them in their garage. Last house was a total loss and the family barely escaped.
10. Get fire alarms and maintain them. Changing batteries on the daylight savings time frame is a good idea. Spring forward...change your batteries. Spring backward...etc.
11. If you have electric registers, make sure they are clear of drapery, blankets, clothing. Don't use space heaters in the home.
12. Clean your chimneys!!! Too many fires due to low maintenance.
13. Obviously, watch the mitts and dishcloths around the stove as well as your sleeves.
14. Don't leave dryer or any appliance running while you are gone or going to sleep. I turn off the dryer a full hour before I am expected to leave.
15. Lastly, if your local fire department is volunteer (as is ours) please consider donating. The courage it took these men to come into my burning home and search for my son whom they thought was indoors was astounding to me. Truly.
There is more, but I speak only from our experience and only want you well
Onebite and family