A fire can be scary at any time, but when you have seniors in the house, the dread you feel is much more heightened. What if you thought you or your senior loved one had a fire extinguisher on the premises, but it turns out you don’t? Can you control the fire in another way, and if so, how?
Here’s how to put out a fire without a fire extinguisher:
- Cover small fires with a heavy fire blanket
- Add baking soda, as its bicarbonate is used in fire extinguishers
- Kick dirt or sand on outdoor fires before they grow larger
- Call the fire department
In this article, we’ll discuss how to handle grease fires, dryer fires, and electrical fires without a fire extinguisher.
While we always recommend you let your local fire department take care of residential fires instead of doing so yourself, this article can provide some life-saving tips, so make sure you keep reading!
Table of Contents
What Can I Use Instead Of A Fire Extinguisher?
The most important thing to know is that how you handle a residential fire depends on the type of fire it is! For example, putting out small grease fires is done very differently than extinguishing a fire in the clothes dryer.
In a house fire, a fire extinguisher usually is sufficient for containing the blaze.
Yet if you’re in a situation like the one we described in the intro and you or your senior parent don’t have a fire extinguisher for home use then you must be ready to try something else.
*NOTE: Should you not want to combat an active fire yourself, that’s perfectly fine. We’d recommend calling 911 and alerting the emergency responder that there’s a fire at your senior parent’s home. They will send firefighters to the property immediately.
If you do want to put out the fire on your own, here are your options.
For smaller, localized fires in one room, you can choke out the fire’s oxygen with a heavy blanket.
Since fires can’t grow without oxygen, the blanket is a useful control measure. That said, this option is only sufficient if the blanket you have is larger than the fire itself.
You can’t just toss the blanket and hope for the best, though – you might miss. Instead, you must get somewhat close to the flames and place the blanket over the flames to starve the fire of oxygen.
This can be too nerve-wracking for some people, which is fine, as a heavy blanket isn’t your only option.
You can also use baking soda. Class C fire extinguishers, which are designed to put out Class C fires, include sodium bicarbonate, an ingredient in baking soda.
What is a Class C fire, you ask? It’s an electric fire, which we’ll talk about later in this article.
The reason sodium bicarbonate is used in fire extinguishers is that it can smother the flames and stop them from spreading.
You will need a good amount of baking soda for it to be effective, however. Since there’s only so much baking soda in a box, this method is recommended for smaller fires only.
Dirt Or Sand
If a fire starts outside of your home, for example in a fire pit, there’s no need to run inside to look for something to put out the blaze.
You can always kick sand or dirt over the fire while it’s still in its beginning stages. Keep in mind that the dirt must be loose and not wet. If the yard is muddy, this won’t work as well.
Like when using a heavy blanket to put out a fire, you should get pretty close to the flames to kick dirt on them.
Only use this method if it’s something you feel comfortable doing.
How To Put Out A Grease Fire Without A Fire Extinguisher
Let’s face it – kitchens are dangerous places! There are so many different ways to get injured. You can get cut, burn yourself on a heat source, get shocked by electrical appliances, or start a cooking fire.
So your best bet is to have the right tools close by in an emergency. This would include smoke detectors and a dry chemical fire extinguisher like this one from Kidde.
That said, let’s look at grease fires and how to put them out if you don’t have a fire extinguisher.
Grease fires are categorized as Class B fires. Many sources can start a grease fire, including alcohols, lacquers, solvents, oil-based paints, oils, tars, petroleum greases, and flammable gases or liquids.
For most people, Class B fires begin in the kitchen. According to the National Fire Protection Association or NFPA, “cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home injuries.”
Whether your senior parent or loved one uses the incorrect quantity of ingredients, the wrong type of oil, or they leave unattended cooking on the stove top, a grease fire can ignite, which is very scary!
Can you put kitchen fires out if you don’t have a fire extinguisher? Yes, you can. Before you do that though, turn the stove top burner off.
Then, if it’s a pan that has caught fire and you can safely do so, put a lid or cookie sheet on the pan. *CAUTION: you should only use a metal lid and not glass, as the glass can explode
Otherwise, leave the pan where it is. The fire within the pan will travel if you pick up the pan and try to move it to a cooler place like the countertop.
Put out the fire by pouring baking soda on it (you can also use table salt).
The one thing you should never use on a grease fire is water. The water will evaporate and increase the size of the grease fire, making it out of control.
Can Flour Put Out A Fire?
What if your senior parent doesn’t have a box of baking soda handy, but they’ve got flour =or something like a biscuit mix instead? Isn’t that similar enough to baking soda?
No – it isn’t similar at all.
Using flour on a grease fire is extremely dangerous. The flour will ignite in the flames, feeding the fire and causing it to grow larger. Before you apply any type of powder on the fire, double-check that it’s baking soda and not flour.
Can Milk Put Out A Fire?
Okay, so you know better than to use a bucket of water on a grease fire, but what about milk? Well, that is most certainly not a good idea either!
There have been reported instances of milk leading to an explosion or a fireball when used on a grease fire. Others have said that milk can extinguish a fire, but you’d need a lot of it.
Considering the above-mentioned fireball risk, we’d say it’s better to leave your milk in the fridge. Either use baking soda on a Class B fire or dial 911 for emergency assistance.
How To Put Out A Dryer Fire Without A Fire Extinguisher
Perhaps the fire in your senior parent’s home didn’t originate in the kitchen, but in their laundry room due to a malfunctioning dryer. It does happen.
Germania Insurance, in a 2020 article, cites some interesting NFPA data. According to the data, every year, 15,970 fires are attributed to washers and dryers on the fritz.
A laundry room fire can be terrifying, especially if you don’t have a fire extinguisher handy. What should you use instead?
In this case, you’d need a fire blanket, which is different than the blankets you have around the house. A fire blanket features fiberglass and wool. You put the blanket on the fire to smother it – provided the blaze is smaller than the blanket.
Before that though, find the plug for the dryer and disconnect it from the power source. Don’t open the dryer door, as this can cause smoke to come billowing out. You could also burn yourself on the very hot dryer.
Once you’ve controlled the blaze, get everyone out of the house and call the fire department. The dryer can’t stay in the house, as it’s a health and safety risk.
The fire department should be able to safely dispose of the defunct dryer.
How To Put Out An Electrical Fire Without A Fire Extinguisher
The risk of electrical fires, which we talked about earlier, is caused by malfunctioning or damaged electrical equipment of any kind.
These fires usually begin as electrical problems in circuit breakers, cables, and wires before spreading. Failing to take care of electrical equipment or overloading the circuits can lead to electrical fires.
If a home is ablaze due to a Class C electrical fire, then you can use the methods we described in the first section to limit the spread of the fire. Those options include a heavy blanket (or a fire blanket), baking soda, and dirt and/or sand.
What Is The Best Defense Against Fire?
Your best defense against fire, besides preventing it altogether, will always be a fire extinguisher. These devices are designed for putting out a blaze, which will save lives and possibly save your home as well.
A fire extinguisher is rated for the different types of fires they are intended to put out. Here’s a list of classes of fires that you may find in homes:
- Class A fire extinguishers are for cloth, paper, wood, and similar combustibles
- Class B fire extinguishers are for gasoline, petroleum, oil, and other flammable liquids
- Class C fire extinguishers are for electrical fires
- Class K fire extinguishers are for fires from vegetable fats and animal fats
To use a fire extinguisher, follow the easy steps of this simple acronym: PASS.
P stands for pulling the pin and A is for aiming the nozzle at the fire. S is for squeezing the level, and the second S refers to sweeping the nozzle.
Here are the complete steps to follow when operating a fire extinguisher.
Step 1: Distance yourself from the fire, standing eight feet back. Then you can pull the pin on the extinguisher.
Step 2: Aim the fire extinguisher nozzle or hose towards the fire’s base, still standing at least eight feet away while you do so.
Step 3: Find the extinguisher’s operating level and squeeze it to release the extinguishing agent.
Step 4: Move the nozzle or hose of the extinguisher from side to side, which will lessen the fire.
*CAUTION: In almost every instance, the safest thing to do in the event of a fire is to get out. Remember the RACE acronym when preparing to exit.
R is for removing everyone from the area, A is for activating a fire alarm box (as applicable), C is for closing any fire doors, and E is for evacuating.
Safety Products Every Kitchen Should Have
We recommend that every kitchen have the following safety products:
- Smoke Detectors / Smoke Alarms
- Fire Extinguishers
- Fire Blankets
- Carbon Monoxide Detectors
- Extinguishing Aerosol Spray
If you don’t yet have these devices, we urge you to purchase them today!
A fire extinguisher is among the most reliable means of putting out a fire, but it’s not your only option. You can use a fire blanket for dryer fires and electrical fires. Baking soda is also very useful. Always avoid using flour, milk, or water to put out fires though, as they will worsen the blaze!
Remember – it is not your duty to fight a fire. You should call 911 for emergency assistance and evacuate along with your senior parent or loved one while you wait for the first responders.