Many of us have a fire extinguisher in the home, but how many of us have actually taken the time to make sure we know how to use one in an emergency?
With help from the Papillion Fire Department, we decided to put several people to the test. We staged the emergency scenario in the kitchen of a deserted farmhouse in Sarpy County.
Melissa Damme, a mother of two, volunteered to take part knowing only that she would have to respond to a sudden situation. As the smell of smoke filtered into the living room area of the house, Melissa quickly made her way to the kitchen.
Flames from a grease fire in a skillet on the stove greeted her and she calmly grabbed a fire extinguisher on the counter and pulled the release clip alongside the nozzle. She was not in a rush, but clearly had difficulty trying to trigger the release that sprays the fire retardant. In all, 35 seconds went by before Melissa was able to dose the fire.
Papillion Fire Chief Bill Bowes watched as Melissa calmly quelled the threat and was impressed. “I’d give her an A."
We learned from Melissa after the demonstration that she actually put out a fire at her neighbor's house when she was only 13, using a fire extinguisher. “She was screaming. She didn’t have a fire extinguisher so I grabbed ours and jumped the fence and put it out.”
For Ashley Christensen it was a little more intimidating. In the living room, she told Channel 6 News, “I don't know 100 percent what I'm supposed to be doing." A moment later, the fire alarm sounded and Ashley rushed into the kitchen to find flames and smoke pouring out of a trash can.
Initially, she grabbed a used fire extinguisher sitting along the kitchen wall and then found one in working order that had been placed in a more prominent spot. Even though it was her first experience with a fire extinguisher, she managed to put the blaze out in 18 seconds.
Again, Chief Bose was impressed. "One quick look, you figured it out and you got the fire out. Yeah, that was very good.”
At the same time it was a lesson learned for Ashley who lives in an apartment. “I honestly need to go home and find out if I even have an extinguisher. I’m a little nervous now.” I checked with her later and she said, "I didn't have one in my apartment so I went right out and bought one."
Papillion Fire Capt. Brian O’Shea passed along an easy to remember tip that can be shared with the entire family. He used the acronym PASS:
“Pull” (the clip)
Chief Bose added this admonishment. “Call 911 before you attempt to use the fire extinguisher.”