Office of Fire Prevention
The mission of the City of Westbrook’s Office of Fire Prevention is to ensure Prevention Code compliance in all new and existing buildings. This is accomplished through education, enforcement of fire, building and life safety codes, investigation of fire causes for criminal or product recall follow up and the application of adopted codes to construction projects.
When people are hurt or killed in a fire it is usually at home. Fires at home are usually the result of a lack of knowledge. We encourage you to review the below Home Self-inspection Checklist and use it a couple of times per year. It's a great family activity that is both educational and potentially life saving
•Address and unit number visible for emergency responders.
•Only non-combustible candle holders used.
•Candles always extinguished before leaving the room.
•Electric generators never used inside the garage, only outdoors. (CO poisoning)
•Lighters and matches kept out of reach of children.
•Inspect around the outside of the home for evidence of juvenile fire play.
•Fireworks only used in the direct control and supervision of adults.
•Bathroom fan not slowing down due to dust build-up.
•No holes in walls or ceilings that could allow fire smoke to spread.
•Leftover fireworks not accessible to children.
•No home-heating with the stove or oven, especially gas appliances.
•Propane heaters never used inside. (CO2 poisoning)
•Portable heaters equipped with tip-over switches or thermal cutoff switches.
•Never penetrate a ceiling or floor that is equipped with built-in radiant heat.
•Combustible materials not stored on or near heaters or equipment.
•Newspaper, kindling and wood not stored near a fire place or wood stove.
•Protective screen in place to stop embers from entering the room.
•Furniture kept a minimum of 18 inches from fire places, wood stoves and heaters.
•Kids not allowed to smoke at home (they often lack the maturity to be responsible and dispose of them in a safe manner).
•Never smoke near propane, natural gas or gasoline.
•Never throw a cigarette on the ground even if you think it is out.
•Fully extinguish in water prior to putting cigarettes in regular trash.
•Use only on-combustible containers for cigarettes.
•No smoking in bed or while on medications that might make you drowsy.
•Light bulbs not a higher wattage than recommended for the fixture.
•Compact florescent bulbs, if used outside are listed for outside use.
•Halogen light fixtures have protective wire covers in place.
•Light fixtures cannot fall over in the house or garage.
•Candle lighting using only non-tip-over non-combustible holders.
•A portable fire extinguisher is accessible from the kitchen and garage.
•Apartment sprinkler & fire alarm systems are maintained annually by the owner.
•If applicable, an escape rope ladder is installed at 2nd story windows.
•All children know how & when to call 911.
•All family members practice a fire drill in the home at least twice per year.
•All family members know the emergency exit plan including a meeting place.
•All stairs exit doors and pathways to them kept clear.
•Address posted on or near the telephone.
•Carbon monoxide detector in place and working.
•Smoke detector not more than 10 years old.
•Smoke detector tested with real smoke (blow out a candle) twice per year.
•Never hang anything from sprinkler heads.
Outdoor Fireplaces and Barbecues
•Used charcoal not stored near the house even if you’re sure it is out.
•Barbecues kept far enough from the house that the walls do not get heated.
•Ensure barbecues are turned off after use.
•Fire pits kept not greater than 3 feet wide and flames not higher than 2 feet.
•Decks protected from the heat of portable fire pits.
•Only fire wood in a fire pit. No trash or yard debris.
•Fire pits have a screen cover to hold back embers.
•A hose or extinguisher is nearby at all times
•Limit extension cord use to temporary only.
•Limit extension cord use to one appliance per cord (to prevent over heating)
•Extension cords not passing through doorways, in the path of foot traffic or covered with insulating materials.
•Electrical appliances, heaters & equipment checked for recall status.
•Only a professional electrician doing electrical work under a city permit.
•No damaged or hot-to-the-touch extension cords.
•No oversized fuses in the fuse box.
•No unexplained fading in & out of power or “popping” sounds of an electrical short.
•No hot electrical wall switches or outlets.
•No problems with frequent circuit breaker tripping.
•Branches kept clear of overhead power lines.
•Keep combustibles away from the stove top.
•Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. Put a lid on it.
•Close the oven door and turn of the power for oven fires and call 911.
•Never leave cooking unattended.
•Double check the stove burners after dinner to ensure they are off.
•Outdoor deep frying of turkeys only on a driveway or concrete patio.
•Turn pot handles so they are not reachable by small children.
•Unplug portable cooking equipment when not in use.
There are three types of smoke alarms, ionization, photoelectric and a combination of the two which is commonly called a "dual". Look for the UL stamp on any smoke alarm.
Dual smoke alarms combine ionization and photoelectric sensor systems to enhance home safety. Recent research has shown that the standard ionization alarms have been unreliable in multiple tests of slow, smoky fires. Ionization alarms perform best in fast flaming fires. A combo unit is considered to provide greatest overall safety in either situation
Ionization smoke alarms monitor “ions” or electrically charged particles. Smoke particles change the electrical balance of the air. The alarm will sound when the change in electrical balance reaches a preset level. (IFSTA Fire and Life Safety Educator Pg 38)
Photoelectric smoke alarms use a beam of light and a light sensor. Smoke particles change the amount of light that reaches the sensor causing the alarm to sound. (IFSTA Fire and Life Safety Educator Pg 39)
Heat detectors are best used over hazards where flaming fires could be expected such as a garage or utility area. Heat detectors have a slower response than smoke detectors according to the National Fire Protection Association because heat generated by small fires tends to dissipate fairly rapidly. (NFPA Fire Protection Handbook Page 5-20, 5-58 & 59).
Juvenile Fire Play
Kids and Fire
The crime of arson has the highest rate of juvenile involvement of all other crimes. Juvenile fire setters continue to account for a disproportionate share of arson arrests according the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and USFA National Fire Data Center statistics and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Report.
The Westbrook Fire Rescue Department offers a limited juvenile fire setting assessment and intervention program where help is just a phone call away for parents of children who show an inordinate fascination with fire, or who are actively setting fires. Your fire department can intervene in problem fire setting behaviors. Call the Westbrook Office of Fire Prevention at (207) 854-0644.
Tips for reducing arson and fire setting opportunities:
•Store matches and lighters out of the reach and sight of children, preferably up high or in a locked cabinet.
•Never use lighters or matches as a source of amusement for children; they may imitate what you do.
•Report suspicious activity near a house or other building to the local police.
•Keep doors and windows locked when a building is unoccupied.
•Keep leaves, firewood, overgrown brush and shrubbery and other combustibles away from buildings. Most arson fires are started outdoors. Don’t make it easy for a youthful fire setter or juvenile arsonist to start a fire, or easy for an outdoor fire to spread to a building.
•Finally, if you suspect a child is intentionally setting fires or unduly fascinated with fire, get help immediately. Your local fire department, school, or community counseling agency can put you in touch with experts trained to help in these matters.
Fire in the hands of children destroys -- regardless of a child’s age or motivation.
What is a chimney fire and how does it happen?
Chimney fires happen when products of incomplete combustion (soot) build up in a chimney for a fireplace or wood stove. The build-up is called creosote. Creosote is usually black or dark brown and is readily combustible. When creosote burns in a chimney it can be explosive. Often you will see flames shooting out of the top of the chimney. Creosote can also burn slowly with no exterior visible flame and put out tremendous heat. Either form of chimney fire can spread to structural members of the house through loose mortar or by the warping of metal chimneys or just from the extreme heat radiating from the fire in a metal chimney.
How can I prevent creosote from building up in my chimney?
Maintenance is the key. You can’t completely prevent creosote since it is a natural result of combustion. That is why it is critical that your chimney be professionally cleaned at least once a year with normal use. There are certain things that people unwittingly do that actually accelerate creosote accumulation. Some people try to make the fire last longer by cutting off most of the air supply. This does make the fire slow down but it also increases creosote which is what smoke becomes as it deposits soot on the walls of the chimney. Some people also burn firewood that is "green" (high moisture content). Water, when vaporized, expands 1700 times in size and acts as a cooling agent. Burning green wood cools the fire and the smoke allowing creosote to build up faster. Remember these key points:
•Have your chimney professionally cleaned at least once a year (more often with heavy use)
•Burn only seasoned dry wood
•Keep your fires active and hot to keep the products of combustion moving up the chimney. Remember that the longer smoke is in the chimney the more likely it will build creosote on the walls of the chimney
•Never burn trash, plastic or paper in your stove or fireplace since this can ignite creosote in your chimney
What are the signs that a chimney fire is happening or that is has happened?
•The roar of a fire in the chimney (often heard in the wall of an upper floor from fireplace or stove or on a lower floor)
•Warping of metal anywhere in or on the chimney
•Creosote flakes and debris found on the ground, roof, or gutters
•Discolored or warped rain cap (at top of chimney)
•Scorching or burns in the roofing material from burning debris falling on the roof
•Visible cracks in the masonry of the chimney
•Smoke escaping through cracks in the chimney
•Smoke in the attic or visible soot build-up in the attic
What do I do if I have an active chimney fire?
•Get everyone out of the house and call 911
Fireplace & Wood Stove Safety
More than one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances as primary heat sources in their homes. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the fire risks when heating with wood and solid fuels.
Heating fires account for 36% of residential home fires in rural areas every year. Often these fires are due to creosote buildup in chimneys and stovepipes. All home heating systems require regular maintenance to function safely and efficiently.
The Westbrook Fire Rescue Department encourages you to practice the following fire safety steps to keep those home fires safely burning. Remember, fire safety is your personal responsibility ...Fire Stops With You!
Keep Fireplaces and Wood Stoves Clean
•Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
•Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials.
•Make sure the fire gets enough air to ensure complete combustion and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney.
•Close glass doors when the fire is out to keep air from the chimney opening from getting into the room. Most glass fireplace doors have a metal mesh screen which should be closed when the glass doors are open. This mesh screen helps keep embers from getting out of the fireplace area.
•Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces that do not have a glass fireplace door.
•Install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures.
•Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces. Otherwise you may cause creosote buildup that could lead to a chimney fire.
•Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves.
•Ensure that it is (or was) installed, inspected and approved under a required permit.
Safely Burn Fuels
•Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
•Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.
•Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.
•Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove.
•When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.
•Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
•Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from your home and any other nearby buildings. Never empty the ash directly into a trash can. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.
Protect the Outside of Your Home
•Stack firewood outdoors at least 30 feet away from your home.
•Keep the roof clear of leaves, pine needles and other debris.
•Cover the chimney with a mesh screen spark arrester.
•Remove branches hanging above the chimney, flues or vents.
Protect the Inside of Your Home
•Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and inside and outside of sleeping areas. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Consider installing the new long life smoke alarms.
•Provide proper venting systems for all heating equipment.
•Extend all vent pipes at least three feet above the roof.
•Make sure your wood or pellet stove is on a non-combustible surface.
After the Fire
When a fire strikes, lives are suddenly turned upside down. Recovering from a fire can be a physically and mentally draining process. Often, the hardest part is to know where to begin and who to contact.
In the event you cannot find the help you need, please call 207-854-0644 and we will do our best to assist you in locating the appropriate individual or agency that can help.
Fire Investigation Report Requests
In Westbrook you must submit a public records request. You will need the incident date, address and if possible, the incident number.
Westbrook Fire Rescue Department
570 Main Street
Westbrook, ME 04092