HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Fire departments are offering important tips for preventing house fires and saving lives during National Fire Prevention Week.
“Anyone who has been involved in a fire, they all are pretty common in saying it happens so quick," explained Henrico County Fire Department Battalion Chief Doug Reynolds. "They could not believe how quick it happened."
Reynolds said most people have only two minutes to escape a house fire.
The most important prevention tool is to have working smoke alarms in each room, but also be sure your family comes up with at least two ways to exit every room. That includes ensuring children know how to open windows.
“You’ve got to be able to go, game time and know how to get out," said Reynolds.
This veteran firefighter has seen a lot of tragedy in his 33 years in the service.
"Last year, we had a lot of fires, and a lot of fatal fires, young kids and senior citizens," he noted.
Another important tip to help prevent a house fire is to not plug too many devices into an extension cord, and be sure to keep blankets and rugs away from them.
"This socket is really designed for two things, and then when we put these splitters on here, you can actually cause a problem here at the socket," Reynolds demonstrated.
The next area to pay extra attention to is the stove.
"Our leading causes of fire are going to be the kitchen fire, unattended stove grease fires, just be super careful in the kitchen," said Reynolds.
Keep plastic and other flammable items away from the burners, and NEVER pour water on a grease fire.
If you do have a small fire in your home, it’s important to have a standard ABC fire extinguisher.
"This could be your first line of defense in putting that fire out," Reynolds noted. “Make sure you mount it, so you always know where it's at."
You also need to know how to use that extinguisher. The acronym “PASS," pull, aim, squeeze and spray, can help you remember the important steps.
"We pull the pin, aim it, we’re going to squeeze and then we are going to spray," said CBS 6's Caroline Coleburn, as Reynolds helped her use a fire extinguisher for the first time.
"You may have a lot of dust in your house, but it’s better than losing your home," Reynolds explained.
While these tips may sound simple, fire experts say they can mean the difference between life and death.
"You have to take it seriously," said Reynolds.
With the holiday season around the corner, Henrico Fire is encouraging people to give “gifts of life.” They say items like carbon monoxide readers, escape ladders and fire extinguishers may not seem like the most fun gift to open Christmas morning, but they can save your life.
If you need a smoke alarm in your home, you can contact the Henrico County Fire Department using this link, and they will come out and install one for free.