Most of the fires that occur might be avoided by proper care, and the following hints, if carefully observed, will aid materially in avoiding such accidents:
1. Never leave matches where they can be reached by children, and if one should fall on the floor, be careful and search for it until you find it. A match, when trodden on, readily ignites, and if unobserved may cause a serious fire, or what is more likely, set a lady's dress in flames. Rats and mice have a great fondness for matches, and often carry them off to their holes, where, by nibbling, they set them on fire. Always keep matches in tin boxes, and never in paper packages.
2. Children should be strictly prevented from playing with fire, and severely punished if caught so offending. It is far better that they should undergo the inconvenience of a little wholesome chastisement than either set the house on fire, disfigure themselves for life, or be burnt to death, from the want of being severely punished for disobedience.
3. Never leave a lamp or candle burning at your bedside on a table when you go to bed, and avoid reading in bed; this is a most fruitful cause of loss of life and property.
4. If a piece of paper is used to light a lamp, see that it is properly extinguished before leaving it, as it will sometimes burst out on fire after it is supposed to have been completely extinguished.
5. If there be an escape of gas, so that the smell of it is very apparent, open the door and windows immediately to allow its escape, and facilitate the entrance of fresh air; and above all things avoid coming any way near with a light of any description. As soon as you can, shut off the gas at the meter.
6. Be careful about stove-pipes passing through lath partitions; about kindling wood left in the oven over night to dry, and about the ash-box. Never keep ashes in a wooden vessel under any circumstances whatever, and never go to bed at night without seeing that every possible cause for an accidental fire has been removed. Allow no linen or cotton clothes to hang near a stove over night for the purpose of drying them.
7. There never yet was a fire which a single pail of water, if applied in time, would not have quenched, therefore never go to bed without having a few pails of water at hand, and a dipper with which to throw it on the fire. Water can never be so well applied if thrown from the pail itself. Spontaneous combustion is no imaginary danger, therefore never leave heaps of oiled rags and similar rubbish lying around.
As most of us are liable to be caught in a burning building, it would be well for us to impress the following hints upon the mind, as they may stand us in good stead if a fire should occur:
1. Every householder should make each person in his house acquainted with the best means of escape, whether the fire breaks out at the top or at the bottom. In securing the street door and lower windows for the night, avoid complicated fastenings or impediments to an immediate outlet in case of fire.
2. Inmates, at the first alarm, should endeavor to reflect what means of escape there are in the house; if in bed at the time, wrap themselves in a blanket or bedside carpet; open neither windows nor doors more than necessary; shut every door after them. This is most important to observe.
3. In the midst of smoke it is comparatively clear toward the ground, consequently progress through the smoke can be made on the hands and knees. A silk handkerchief, worsted stockings, or other flannel substance wetted and drawn over the face, permits free breathing, and excludes, to a great extent, the smoke from the lungs. A wet sponge is alike efficacious.
4. In the event of being unable to escape, either by the street door or roof, the persons in danger should immediately make their way to a front room window, taking care to close the door after them, and those who have charge of the household should ascertain that every individual is there assembled.
5. Persons thus circumstanced should never precipitate themselves from the windows while there remains the least probability of assistance; and even in the last extremity a plain rope is invaluable, or recourse may be had to joining sheets or blankets together, fastening one end ronnd the bedpost or other furniture. This will enable one person to lower all the others separately, and the last may let himself down with comparatively Little risk. Select a window over the doorway rather than over the area.