Homemade wontons frying in hot oil ignited the blaze. “Like so many customers we see every day, this fire started on the stove while cooking,” recalls Charlie Horn, President of Paul Davis of Louisville, Kentucky, “But this time, it was my stove in my home. We were shocked at how quickly it grew into a dangerous fire.

“It was scary but ultimately transformative and educational for me personally. It taught me how to do things differently as a homeowner – to prevent fires – and as a business owner to better help customers who experience a fire.”

Horn reviewed the valuable “takeaways” that this terrifying blaze delivered: 

What happened: The oil in the frying pan got too hot. By the time Horn reentered the kitchen, the room was already filling with black smoke. He had to duck underneath the dense cloud of sooty air to reach the stove, where he found the fire already igniting the upper cabinets.

Safety lessons he learned: First, never leave the kitchen while cooking. Second, be particularly cautious when cooking with oil. It’s one of the most common ignition sources in kitchen fires. It’s a very flammable and commonly used ingredient that has a relatively low flash point when heated. 

What happened: Horn called the fire department but as he waited, he searched for a way to stop the fire’s spread. He grabbed the engulfed pan and ran outside with it. The jostling combined with the influx of rush of air and oxygen caused a flare-up that seriously burned his hands. He later required skin-grafting.

Safety lessons he learned: First, always keep a well-maintained fire extinguisher in a prominent spot that is easily accessible when cooking. Second, never move a burning pan – smother the flames with a lid or toss baking soda on it if you can safely do so. But moving the pan usually spreads the flames and injures the person carrying the pan as burning matter spills over.

What happened: In the commotion, Horn and his wife exited the house through different doors. Not finding Horn outside, his spouse panicked. Fortunately, the fire department prevented her from reentering the smoke-filled home to search for her husband.

Safety lesson he learned: Develop a family emergency plan, familiarize all family members with plan details and practise the plan’s steps regularly. One of the most common features of an emergency plan: choosing a place where everyone meets immediately after exiting the house.

What happened: As president of a disaster recovery company with years of experience, Horn believed he would be more prepared and less fazed if he experienced a personal disaster. He was shocked to discover how the fire devastated him and his family. 

Lesson he learned: For disaster victims, the need for compassion and healing is almost more important than the logistics of the mitigation and restoration project. After his house fire, Horn hired a production coordinator to join his Paul Davis team. This person specializes in helping property owners heal emotionally as they process the loss.

“I now truly recognize that one of the most important jobs we do is bring empathy. We must make sure that property owners know we care, and we are there to serve them in their time of need at whatever level they require to feel safer,” Horn emphasizes. “We have a huge responsibility to that person to deliver an exceptional experience during a traumatic time. We have to treat them like family: listen, comfort, care, support them in ways large and small, celebrate milestones as they happen. Recovery is about much, much more than rebuilding a home.” Fire Prevention month is recognized each October and this year is the 100 year anniversary of this important safety message reminder.  Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape. Is the 2022 Fire Prevention theme. An excellent reminder for everyone.