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Building good living habits to prevent fires.

Taipei City Fire Department records that during January – March, 2021, among fires with casualties, the primary cause was cigarette butts (44.4%), followed by suicide and electricity (22.2% each) – totaling 4 deaths and 7 injuries. Further analysis of cigarette butts fires reveals that two of the deceased were mobility-impaired senior citizens who had the habit of smoking in their beds (sofa) before sleeping. As ashes and cigarette butts fall onto the bed, an accumulation of the heat in combustible materials for an extended period of time causes ignition and fire. The fire department’s advices for precautions to avoid cigarette butt fires are as follows:
1. Avoid littering cigarette butts. Cigarette butts should be properly put out and put in an ashtray.
2. Clean ashtrays regularly to avoid cigarette butts from accumulating. Avoid putting cigarette butts directly into a trash can or a plastic bag to prevent heat accumulation and smoldering, causing a fire.
3. Avoid smoking before sleeping or after drinking. One’s poor mental state before sleeping or after drinking may cause cigarette butts to fall off or be placed randomly on objects, thus contacting combustibles and causing a fire.
4. Use iron or inflammable trash can to avoid fires from spreading after ignition.
The two leading causes for fires recorded during January – March, 2021 were cooking and electricity. Though fryers, seen commonly in deep dry and stir fry restaurants, do not account for many of the fires caused by cooking, their fires occur so quickly it’s difficult to react to, easily resulting in property damages and casualties. Deep fryer fires occur mainly due to the bottom of the fryer getting continually heated until the oil temperature reaches smoke point (approximately 240℃ for soybean oil). The oil gas that reached smoke point may then ignite. Once a deep fryer catches on fire, the gas should be immediately turned off. During early stages of the fire, one can cover the fryer with the pot lid, and extinguish the fire by covering with a wet towel to block off air sources or using a portable fire extinguisher. Do not attempt to extinguish the fire with water or move the fryer, which would result in spilled oil and boilovers that worsen the fire and endanger the rescuers.
Moreover, the leading cause of electrical fires during January – March, 2021 is extension cords, totaling 13 incidents. Further analysis shows that of the 79 fires caused by extension cords in the past 3 years, the leading cause for ignition were aging power cords (25.3%), followed by extruding power chords (20.3%), inserting too many electronics with high power consumption (17.1%), connecting multiple extension cords (15.2%), and wet or dusty extension cord sockets (8.9%). A careless use of power cords may cause it to age. Aging, squeezing, pulling or connecting extension wires inappropriately may cause two wires to touch, short circuit, and cause a fire. Inspect power cords regularly to check for marks of being under heavy objects and furniture. Immediately replace the cords if there are any signs of degradation or damage. Examine the sockets for any irregularities such as dampness, burnt marks, green rust, or dustiness. Wipe to keep dry and clean, and avoid any fouling that causes short circuits and fires.
The fire department advices that fires caused by cigarette butts, fryers, or extension cords are all closely related to one’s living habits. People should prevent fires by developing good habits, creating a safe living environment, and reduce the occurrence of fires.