- Departments A-H
- Learn More
- Smoke Alarms
- Close Your Doors
- Plan Your Escape
- Cooking with Safety
- When the Alarm Sounds
- Carbon Monoxide
- Grilling & Fire Pits
- Fire Safety
Need a Free Smoke Alarm?
Free smoke alarms are provided to all city residents who can't purchase one on their own. The Charlottesville Fire Department will also assist in installing a new smoke alarm purchased by the resident.
To request a free smoke alarm service, click here.
Working Smoke Alarms
- Working smoke alarms save lives, cutting the risk of dying in a home fire in half. Smoke alarms should be installed and maintained in every home
- Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room, outside each separate sleeping area, and on every level of the home. Install alarms in the basement. Larger homes may require additional smoke alarms to provide a minimum level of protection.
- Install smoke alarms away from the kitchen to prevent nuisance alarms. They should be at least 10 feet from a cooking appliance.
- Photoelectric smoke alarms are the best type of alarms to be installed near the kitchen and bathrooms to reduce nuisance alarms.
- New multi-criteria smoke alarm technology will state “helps reduce cooking nuisance alarms” on the packaging. Consider using new multi-criteria alarms when it is time to replace existing photoelectric or ionization alarms.
Testing & Cleaning Smoke Alarms
- Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button.
- Make sure everyone in the home understands the sound of the smoke alarm and knows how to respond.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning to keep smoke alarms working. The instructions are included in the package or can be found on the internet.
Battery & Smoke Alarm Replacement
- Smoke alarms with non-replaceable (long-life) batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. If the alarm chirps, warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away.
- For smoke alarms that do not have non-replaceable (long-life) batteries, replace batteries at least once a year. If the alarm chirps, replace only the battery.
- Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old.
- Replace any smoke alarm that does not respond after a new battery has been installed.
- Replace combination smoke–carbon monoxide alarms according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Close Before You Doze
You know how important it is to have working smoke alarms, escape plans, and a designated meeting place in case of a fire. But did you know that closing your doors in your home is also important for your safety? Closed doors can reduce fire growth, limit damage to your home, keep temperatures down, and can even save your life if you become trapped.
Did you know, because of synthetic materials, furniture and construction, fire spreads faster than ever before.
MAKE A 900 DEGREE DIFFERENCE: A closed door can mean reducing 1,000 degrees down to 100 degrees.
TAKE IT DOWN A NOTCH: During a fire, a closed-door can keep carbon monoxide levels at 1,000 PPM versus 10,000 PPM if the door is left open.
TAKE A BREATHER: A fire needs oxygen to burn. A closed door keeps more oxygen in the room and away from the fire. When you exit a fire, make sure to close your door behind you to slow down its growth.
DOZE SAFELY: 50% of house fires happen between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Closing your doors before you hit the hay helps keep you safe.
For more information, check out CloseYourDoor.org.
Create a Home Escape Plan
- Draw a map of each level of the home. Show all doors and windows. Go to each room and point to the two ways out. Practice the plan with everyone in your household, including visitors.
- Children, older adults, and people with disabilities may need assistance to wake up and get out. Make sure that someone will help them.
- Teach your children how to escape on their own in case you cannot help them. Make sure they can open windows, remove screens, and unlock doors.
- Know at least two ways out of every room, if possible. Make sure all doors and windows that lead outside open.
- Make sure everyone in your home knows how to call 9-1-1, or your local emergency number, from a cell phone or a trusted neighbor’s phone.
- Have an outside meeting place (something permanent, like a tree, light pole, or mailbox) a safe distance in front of the home where firefighters will easily find you.
Have Fun and Practice with a Fire Drill
- Push the smoke alarm button to start the drill.
- Practice what to do in case there is smoke. Get low and go. Get out fast.
- Practice using different ways out.
- Close doors behind you as you leave.
- Get out and stay out. Never go back inside for people, pets, or things.
- Go to your outside meeting place.
- Practice your home fire escape drill at least twice a year with everyone in your home. Practice at night and during the daytime.
- After you have practiced your home fire escape drill, evaluate it and discuss what worked and what needs to be improved. Improve it and practice again.
Stand by Your Pan
The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking. Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food. Turn off the burner if you leave the kitchen for any reason. If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly and stay in the home. Use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.
What to Do If You Have a Cooking Fire
Never pour water on a cooking pan grease fire
- Always keep a lid nearby when you are cooking. If a small grease fire starts in a pan, smother the flames by sliding the lid over the pan. Turn off the burner. Do not move the pan. To keep the fire from restarting, leave the lid on until the pan has cooled.
- In case of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed until it is cool. Only open the door once you are confident the fire is completely out, standing to the side as you open the oven door.
- After a fire, the oven should be checked by a licensed professional and/or serviced before being used again.
- When in doubt, just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire. After you leave, call 9-1-1 or the fire department from a mobile phone or a trusted neighbor’s phone.
Know the Sounds of Fire Safety
Our homes have many devices and alarms. Smoke alarms and Carbon Monoxide Alarms sound differently. Learn the sounds of fire safety and keep your family safe.
- A continuous set of three loud beeps—beep, beep, beep—means smoke or fire. Get out, call 9-1-1, and stay out.
- A single chirp every 30 or 60 seconds means the battery is low and must be changed.
- All smoke alarms must be replaced after 10 years.
- Chirping that continues after the battery has been replaced means the alarm is at the end of its life and the unit must be replaced.
- Make sure your smoke and CO alarms meet the needs of all your family members, including those with sensory or physical disabilities.
Test your smoke and CO alarms monthly to be familiar with the sounds of fire safety!
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas you cannot see, taste, or smell. It is often called “the invisible killer.” It is created when fossil fuels such as kerosene, gasoline, coal, natural gas, propane, methane, or wood don’t burn completely. CO gas can kill people and pets.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning can result from gas-, gasoline-, and diesel-fueled vehicles idling inside garages or from malfunctioning or improperly vented water heaters, clothes dryers, furnaces and other heating appliances, and portable generators.
- Headache, nausea, and drowsiness are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Exposure to carbon monoxide can be fatal.
Tips to Avoid Carbon Monoxide
- Never use an oven or stovetop to heat your home.
- Have gas appliances, fuel-burning heating equipment, and chimneys inspected per the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Before using the fireplace, open the damper for proper ventilation. When finished, leave the damper open until the fire is completely extinguished to prevent smoke and gases generated by embers from entering the home.
- Never run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor in a garage, even if garage doors are open. The carbon monoxide (CO) gas can kill people and pets.
- Make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow and other debris.
- Always use barbecue grills outside, away from all doors, windows, vents, and other building openings. Grills can produce carbon monoxide (CO) gas. Never use grills inside the home or the garage, even if the doors are open.
- Use portable generators outdoors in well-ventilated areas at least 20 feet (7 metres) from all doors, windows, and vent openings. Measure the 20-foot (7-metre) distance from the generator to the building
Fireworks, including sparklers, are not permitted in the City of Charlottesville. For more information see the City Code on fireworks, Section 12-32.
Call the Charlottesville Fire Department at 434-970-3240 for more information.
The City of Charlottesville allows the use of gas, charcoal and wood grills, and grill pits that are covered with a screen. If not used for food preparation, outdoor fireplaces must be at least 15 feet from a structure
Open fires (without a screen) are allowed for recreational and ceremonial use with permission from the Fire Marshal. For more information please see the City Code on open burning, Section 12-32.
- Use one of the following methods to start charcoal for cooking:
- If you use a charcoal chimney to start charcoal for cooking, use a long match to avoid burning your fingers when lighting the paper.
- If you use an electric charcoal starter, be sure to use a grounded extension cord.
- If you choose to use lighter fluid, use only fluid intended for charcoal grills.
- Never add charcoal starter fluid to coals or kindling that has already been ignited.
- Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquid except charcoal starter or lighter fluid to start a charcoal fire.
- Store the charcoal starter fluid outside, out of reach of children, and away from heat sources.
- Dispose of charcoal coals only after they are cool. Empty the coals into a metal container with a tight-fitting lid that is used only to collect coals. Place the container outside away from anything that can burn. Never empty coals directly into a trash can.
- Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year and after each time the gas tank is reconnected. A soap-and-water solution (1/3 liquid dish soap and 2/3 water) applied to the hose and connection will quickly reveal escaping propane by causing bubbles to form. If you determine by smell or by the soap bubble test that your gas tank hose or connection has a gas leak, do the following:
- Turn off the gas tank and grill.
- If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again
- If the leak does not stop, call the fire department
- Always store propane gas tanks outside of buildings or garages. Vapors leaked indoors can be easily ignited by pilot lights or electrical equipment, causing an explosion. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the tank or cylinder and leave it outside
- Light a propane grill only with the cover open. If the flame on the propane grill goes out, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least 5 minutes before relighting.
Fire Pits & Outdoor Fire Places
All fire pits and outdoor fireplaces must have either a chimney or screen to arrest sparks and embers. For more information please see the City Code on open burning, Section 12-32.
- Closely supervise all outdoor fires. Make sure the fire is out before leaving the area.
- Supervise children around any fire outdoors, including campfires, fire pits, chimineas, and outdoor fireplaces.
- Never burn plastics, construction debris, treated lumber, tires, pesticides, paint, or aerosol containers. These items contain toxins that can be harmful to people and animals when burned.
- Only use fire pits outdoors and at least 10 feet away from anything that can burn.
- Place the fire pit on a surface that is level and will not catch on fire, such as patio blocks, bricks, or concrete. Clear the area around the fire pit of any fall risks, including uneven ground, rocks, or sticks that hang over the pit area. Tripping and falling on or into the fire pit is a real danger. Keep the area well-lit or use a flashlight when approaching or leaving the fire pit area.
- Keep the fire pit away from siding, decks, deck railings, tents, grass/ vegetation, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches or structures.
- In wood-burning fire pits, burn only clean, dry hardwood that’s been seasoned at least 6 months. Use commercial fire starters to start the fire, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Never use lighter fluid or gasoline to start or relight a fire in a fire pit.
- For a wood-burning fire pit, dispose of ashes after they have cooled. Empty the ashes in a metal container with a tightfitting lid that is used only for the ashes. Place the container away from anything that can burn. Never empty the ashes directly into a trash can.
Call the Fire Marshal at 434-970-3247 for more information.
- Place space heaters at least 3 feet away from flammable/combustible materials.
- Use only the type of fuel designated for your space heater.
- Do not leave space heaters unattended.
- Electrical work should be done only by a qualified electrician. Some communities require that a person doing electrical work have a license. Find out about the laws in your area.
- Have your home electrical system inspected by a qualified private inspector or in accordance with local requirements when buying, selling, or renovating a home.
- Keep lamps, light fixtures, and light bulbs away from anything that can burn, including furniture, bedding, curtains, clothing, and flammable or combustible gases and liquids.
- Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the lamp or fixture.
- If a fuse blows or circuit breaker trips often, find out why and get the problem corrected before turning the breaker back on or replacing the fuse. Have a qualified electrician inspect and fix it.
- Install tamper-resistant receptacles where needed. Tamper-resistant receptacles are required for new and replacement receptacles inside your home.
- Major appliances (refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers, microwave ovens, etc.) should be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord with a major appliance—it can easily overheat and start a fire.
- Window air conditioners should be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Many manufacturers of room air conditioners prohibit the use of extension cords. If the manufacturer’s instructions allow extension cords, follow the instructions for the proper type.
- Check electrical cords often. Replace cracked, damaged, and loose electrical or extension cords. Do not try to repair them.
- Avoid putting cords under rugs and carpets, across doorways, or where they can be damaged or pinched by furniture.
- Use only surge protectors or power strips that have internal overload protection. Use surge protectors or power strips that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Extension cords are for temporary use only. Have a qualified electrician determine if additional circuits or wall outlets are needed.
Charlottesville Fire Department can inspect your home for fire safety and prevention. Call the Fire Marshal at 434-970-3247 for more information.