Princeton Fire investigator Tim Speedy has seen it all.
"Before in your house, most of your products were wood. Certain kind of smoke, certain kind of fire spread," Speedy said.
But lately, Speedy says things have changed. Technology is changing the way fires start, burn, and how they can be extinguished.
"Everything is plastic. The fire spread is incredibly fast, incredibly hot. The smoke is very toxic," Speedy said.
Since November, there have been at least six fire deaths in the Tri-State, and nationally, statistics show a structure fire breaks out nearly every minute.
"If they would have had a working smoke detector. If not would have not overloaded an outlet, if they would have done something that act wouldn't have happened. So it's kind of a hard pill to swallow," Speedy said.
In the home, electrical fires are among the top five leading causes.
Princeton Dire Chief Mike Pflug has more than 20 years of experience. He warns about the danger of overloaded electric outlets and extension cords.
"They come in variable lengths, up to ten feet long. Then they'll plug three or four appliances into the end of it that shouldn't be plugged into an extension cord at all," Pflug said.
Not every fire is the same and trying to extinguish them the wrong way can be even more dangerous than the flames.
Pflug warns never put water on a metal fire.
"Magnesium is reactive to water and causes a violent reaction actually," Pflug said.
Water added to a grease fire will just make it worse, a lot worse.
"One cup of water on a grease fire will essentially make 17,000 cups of steam," Pflug said.
Instead, experts say, grab the pan's lid.
"If you slam it down on there, it's going to force air into it and that in turn will make it splash out. So it's easier just to stay back, slide it on there, shut if off, and just leave it alone," Princeton Fire Captain Kevin McKannan said.
National statistics show cooking fires are the number one cause of house fires and unattended cooking ranks at the top. Speedy says it's getting worse.
"I don't know if people get distracted by electronics or kids or cell phone calls," Speedy said.
Once a fire breaks out, knowing how to use a fire extinguisher can minimize damage, and a quick demonstration is all it takes.
"We showed you in what? 3 minutes?" McKannan said.
The demo proved, it's a simple, safe option. They can save their house for starters.
Pull the pin, aim at the bottom of the fire. Squeeze the lever and sweep the spray from left to right. When it comes to house fires, planning ahead can make all the difference.
Here's more on fire extinguisher safety:
Most house fires can be put out with a multi-purpose ABC extinguisher.
A-B-C stands for the different classes of fires it can be used on:
Class A: "Ordinary combustibles" used on wood, rubber, cloth, paper and plastic
Class B: "Flammable combustibles" used on gasoline, oil, grease, tar, lacquer and oil-based paints
Class C: "Electrical equipment" used on wiring, fuse boxes, breakers, machinery and appliances
Metal fires, however, require a different type of extinguisher. Class D extinguishers should be kept in the garage, especially if you're an avid mechanic.
Class D: "Combustible metals" used on industrial metal or metal dust.
Princeton's Fire Chief says magnesium is water reactive, and causes a violent reaction. If you're unsure about fighting a small fire, experts say to leave the area and call for help.
Here's the link to the National Fire Protection Agency. You'll find more safety tips, ways to reduce property loss, and advice on what to practice with kids.
The Princeton Fire Department also suggests talking with kids about fire safety. Fire investigators say to practice the exit routes with the lights off, for a more realistic experience.
They also say buying a metal, chain ladder for second-floor rooms can be comforting. That way people trapped inside can escape safely through windows.
Also, have an outside meeting place for the family so kids know where to go.
Other tips from the PFD include having a flammable liquids cabinet out in the garage. Household items like paint and gasoline can be kept safely inside. That way the fire has less to feed on.
Also, watch out how close night lights and scented plug-ins are to towel racks or curtains. Those appliances do generate heat.
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