Stopping a Fire Before it Starts

A fire will change your life in many ways.

When it comes to fire safety, information abounds. But it’s often hard to find the time to wade through the information and figure out what you need to do to keep your family safer. Here are five simple things that you can do today to help protect your family from fire.


Do an audit of your home’s smoke alarms. (If you don’t have UL listed smoke alarms, make a plan to install them on each level of the home, especially near sleeping areas). Check placement: Smoke rises, so smoke alarms should be located on a ceiling or high on a wall. Alarms mounted on the ceiling should be at least four inches away from the nearest wall and those mounted on walls should be four to twelve inches down from the ceiling. Test your alarms and be sure that they can be heard in bedrooms even when the doors are closed. If not, install smoke alarms in the bedrooms. Make sure that your kids know what the alarms sound like. Replace alarms that are older than 10 years and replace any alarm that has been painted over. Safety Tip: Change the batteries whenever you change the clocks for Daylight Saving Time.


Be sure that you have at least one or more UL listed fire extinguishers in your home. An ABC-type extinguisher is a good all-purpose choice for fires in the home. Check the gauge located on the extinguisher to see if it needs to be replaced or recharged. Also be sure that the fire extinguisher is in an easily accessible location. Remember that fire extinguishers are not designed to fight large or spreading fires. Your number one priority is to have an escape plan and to get out safely. If the fire is small and contained and the room is not filled with smoke, get everyone out and call the fire department; then, you may use the fire extinguisher to control the fire. Safety Tip: Read the directions and familiarize yourself with the use of your extinguisher now, before you’re in the midst of an actual emergency.


Talk to your kids about how they can prevent fires. Children under age five are especially curious about fire and need to start learning about the tremendous danger. Take the mystery out of fire and make sure that your kids know the following safety tips: • Never play with matches, lighters or candles. • Never play with electrical cords and never put anything in a socket. • Blankets or clothes should never be thrown on top of lamps. • Don’t turn up a heater without a grown-up’s permission. • If your clothes catch on fire, stop, drop and roll. Safety Tip: Check under beds and in closets for burned matches or candles. Kids often choose “secret” places to play with matches and light fires. Even “good” kids are curious- teach your kids to always tell you when they find matches and lighters.


Think about how your child sees potential fire hazards in your home by getting down on your hands and knees with them and taking a look around. See any dangling cords that could cause a problem if pulled? Enticing heaters or other appliances? Make adjustments to your home according to what you find. Safety Tip: Make your floortour a game with your kids. Have them point out things they see by playing eye-spy. You’ll be surprised by what catches their attention.


Do a walk-through of your home. If you see sockets with too many cords plugged in or even too many extension cords around the house, it may be time to have extra outlets installed by a professional. Always pay attention to the acceptable wattage for cords and lamps. Also look for extension cords that are “tacked up” or run under a rug as these could be a real fire hazard for kids and adults. Safety Tip: The family room and the nursery are particularly sus

Below are some recommendations for actions to take Before a Fire to assure that you have the knowledge and tools to prevent or reduce the extent of damage to your home and family

  • Adequate homeowner’s or renter’s insurance
  • Key records and important papers stored in a safety deposit box, off site
  • Copies of irreplaceable family photos in more than one place
  • Home sprinkler system and smoke detectors
  • Family escape plan
  • Exterior landscaping that helps keep fire and embers away from the structure
  • Fire extinguisher on every level
  • Fire escape ladders from second story rooms
  • Periodic self-inspection to assure there are no typical fire hazards, e.g. overloaded outlets, out-of-date electrical cords, space heaters within 3 feet of combustible materials, chimney filled with creosote, haphazard storage of flammable materials, or lighters and matches within sight and reach of children.

Whatcom County/City of Blaine Recreational Fires

Regulations- Recreational fires must meet the following requirements, and only when there is no burn ban in place:

  • No permit is required for recreational fires in Whatcom County
  • Must only contain seasoned firewood or charcoal
  • Must be contained in an enclosure no larger than 3 feet by 3 feet and must be 16 inches high made of cement blocks, stones or steel.
  • Beach fires (where allowed) can be dug into an 8″ deep pit, surrounded by 4″ high enclosure rocks.
  • 25 feet from structures, timber, and combustible material
  • 15 feet overhead clearance required
  • A charged garden hose or (2) 5-gallon buckets full of water to be next to the fire.
  • A shovel or rake capable of stirring and extinguishing the fire to be on-site
  • Recreational fires are allowed after dark, if attended by someone 16 years or older at all times.
  • Fires must be attended until out cold.
  • No burning when winds exceed 7 MPH.
  • Must have landowner permission to light all fires

For questions on open burning in unincorporated Whatcom County, contact the Whatcom County fire marshal’s office at 360/778-5900, call the outdoor burning information line at 360/778-5903

City of Blaine recreational burning

Recreational fires do not need a permit if all the conditions below are met. Check for additional restrictions in your area.

  • The fire must consist only of charcoal or firewood and must only be used for cooking or pleasure.
  • The fire is 2 feet in diameter or smaller and is in an enclosure no larger than 3 feet across. The enclosure must be a minimum of 16 inches high and made of cement block, stones, or 10-gauge steel.
  • Materials being burned must be kept lower than the sidewalls of the enclosure.
  • A charged garden hose or two five-gallon buckets of water must be on site.
  • A shovel or rake must be on site.
  • The fire must be 25 feet from any structure or standing timber.
  • Tree branches must be cleared to the height of 15 feet above the enclosure.
  • One person age 16 or older, who is capable of putting the fire out, must be in attendance at all times until the fire is out cold.
  • The fire must be contained within a firebreak (bare ground).
  • Must have landowner permission to light all fires.

Outdoor burning rules Applies to all types of burning [State outdoor burning rule — WAC 173-425]


  • Burning natural vegetation or firewood only – Not even paper is allowed, except for the amount necessary to start a fire.
  • Burning only when winds are less than 7 mph.


  • Burning during a burn ban with some exceptions.
  • Using burn barrels – They’re prohibited statewide (WAC 173-425-050(5)).
  • Burning construction, renovation, or demolition debris.
  • Creating a nuisance – Smoke, odor, or ash that unreasonably interferes with the use and enjoyment of neighboring properties.
  • Burning material not generated on-site (except firewood for recreational fires).
  • Burning at a permanent commercial business.
  • Burning during air stagnation periods.
  • Burning when winds exceed 7 mph.
  • The fire must not create a nuisance.

Postcard Surveys — What People are Saying

Thanks for the great care! JM – B’ham

I was impressed with all of them. VP – Blaine

Fast response – all were super kind & professional. JK – B’ham

Thank you so much for your service. VS – Blaine

The 3 fellows were efficient, and knowledgeable to my health problem. SL – B’ham

The firefighters were great, kind and informative. JB – Blaine

I was very upset. They were a comfort to me. CO – B’ham

We feel so blessed to have such professional, kind, and caring response teams. JR – Blaine

Very impressed with service and who delivered it. DG – Blaine

Treatment and advice was superb! ST– Blaine

Thank you so much! NA – Blaine

So very kind and helpful! Loved them all! VJ – Blaine

Thanks for all you do and did!! DM – B’ham

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