A fire blanket is a specialized sheet of fabric that, it is highly heat and fire-resistant and it does not allow oxygen to pass through its finely woven fabric. Combining these two features means a fire-retardant blanket can be excellent at smothering small incipient fires for people trained in their use. A fire blanket acts on fires by denying the fire access to oxygen, an essential fuel for burning fires. Without oxygen, the fire quickly goes out. In this overview, we’ll summarize advice from various sources on using a fire blanket and when is the best time to use it.
What is a Fire Blanket Made Of?
Fire retardant blankets for putting out common kitchen fires are usually fiberglass. It’s also possible to get fire-resistant blankets made of leather. Still, these blankets are typically for other times, like placing them under a barbecue grill or welding.
Modern fire retardant blankets are not of asbestos. Many people worry that they’re made of asbestos because they sometimes have short fine fibers that fall out of them. But those fibers are fiberglass only unless you have an old fire blanket.
The fiberglass finely weaves into a fabric that is both flexible and fire retardant. As a result, it resists extreme heat and fire. The fine thread also helps prevent oxygen from getting through the fabric, effectively smothering the fire.
You will, of course, need to check to find out what specific material your fire blanket is in your manual.
When to Use a Fire Blanket
1. For Small Incipient Fires
A fire retardant blanket is best for smaller fires in their embryonic stage. That’s a fire that is just beginning and containable under the surface area of the blanket.
One primary consideration about whether to choose a fire blanket for a fire extinguisher is the size of the fire. If the fire is larger than the surface area of the blanket, it won’t be handy.
The other thing to consider is whether you can cover the fire with a blanket. The blanket needs to be able to cover the fire to extinguish it entirely. That’s what makes a blanket a choice for putting out a trash can or stovetop fires because you can place the blanket over the rim of the trash can, pot, or pan. But when the fire is in the corner of a room or on an uneven surface, it gets harder to deny the fire oxygen. So for these instances, a fire extinguisher might be a better option instead. But, again, these are considerations trained users need to make on a case-by-case basis.
2. For Burning Clothing
Fire blankets are also often recommended by a trained user when a person’s clothing is on fire. You can wrap the blanket around the person tightly to deny the fire oxygen. Once it wraps around the person, they must ‘stop, drop and roll’ to put the fire out.
This action may sound easy, but when someone’s on fire, they’re not going to be standing still for the user to wrap the blanket around them!
When not to use a Fire Blanket
It would help if you didn’t use a fire retardant blanket in the following cases:
- If the fire is larger than the surface area of the blanket.
- If the surface area is uneven and cannot be fully covered.
- If the user does not know how to use the blanket properly.
- If the user or the people around them are in immediate danger and need to evacuate immediately.
Sometimes it’s best to evacuate the area safely and calmly and cal 9-1-1 to let the professionals deal with the issue. That is why it’s essential to get trained in your jurisdiction on appropriate use.
Instructions for Use
a) For Small Incipient Fires
Different fire blankets may have further instructions for use. Ensure you always follow the rules of the specific blanket and in your jurisdiction. Below are general steps for service only and not necessarily appropriate for your situation or your fire blanket:
How to Use a Fire Blanket
1. Evaluate your Safety.
Stop and evaluate the situation. First, make sure no one is in immediate danger. If you cannot safely approach the fire to place the blanket over it, evacuate immediately and call 9-1-1.
2. Turn off Electricity.
If the fire fuels an appliance, such as a stove or toaster, it’s best first to remove the electrical connection. Then, if it’s safe to do so, unplug the device from the wall. Similarly, if the fire fuels by gas, see if you can turn off the gas source.
3. Put on Gloves.
Wikihow suggests that if you have gloves nearby, you should put the gloves on before handling the blanket to prevent getting pricked by the sharp fibers in the blanket.
4. Remove the blanket from its sleeve.
A fire retardant blanket is usually in a bag that hangs on a wall. The blanket will usually have two tabs at the bottom. Pull the tabs sharply. The blanket will fall from the sleeve. Check your manual on this.
5. Fold the blanket over your hands.
You do not want your hands to be openly exposed to the fire when they get close to the fire. Wikihow suggests folding the blanket over your hands.
6. Shield yourself.
Hold the blanket up as a shield between yourself and the fire and approach the fire with caution.
7. Carefully place the blanket over the flames.
Do not throw the blanket. It would be best if you were calm and in control of the blanket for this step. Throwing the blanket will not fully cover the flames and may fan the fire, causing the fire to surge.
8. Leave the blanket in place.
Then, survey the scene. If it appears the fire has been suppressed, leave the blanket in place for 30 minutes. If the flames are still burning, get a fire extinguisher.
9. Evacuate and call 9-1-1.
Have a professional firefighter come to assess the situation and announce the problem all clear.
b) For Burning Clothing
This one is a little harder. The user needs to stay calm and help the person whose clothing is on fire. This reason is why it’s essential to be well trained before use. Ensure you always follow the rules of the specific blanket and in your jurisdiction. Below are general steps for service only and not necessarily appropriate for your situation or your fire blanket:
If a Person’s Clothes are on Fire
1. Put on Gloves.
If you have gloves nearby, put them on to protect your hands.
2. Release the Blanket.
Release the blanket from its sleeve by pulling sharply at the two tabs at the bottom of the sleeve. The blanket will fall from the sleeve.
3. Protect your Hands.
Grab the edges of the blanket and wrap them once around your hands. That will protect them from the fire.
4. Shield yourself.
Hold the blanket out between you and the fire as a shield and approach the person burning.
5. Wrap the Blanket.
Wrap the blanket around the person. Afterward, continue to wrap it until the blanket is fully covering the fire and you’ve run out of material.
6. Stop Drop and Roll.
Have the person drop to the floor and roll. It is often helpful to demonstrate it yourself and have them copy you. Remember, the person is probably in a panic at this moment.
7. Call 9-1-1.
Call 9-1-1 and have both the ambulance and fire department attend the scene immediately to render assistance.
Where to Keep your Fire Blanket
The most common and helpful place to put a blanket is in a kitchen. It’s possible to hang the sleeve on the kitchen wall or the inner door of the kitchen cupboard.
Non-domestic kitchens often also need a fire-retardant blanket. Industrial and commercial kitchens often need one, and so do boats with kitchens in them. Local jurisdictions govern these laws.
But they’re also commonly used in other locations.
You’ll find many people have them in the trunk of their cars to suppress vehicle fires or to access when car camping easily. Similarly, backpackers often take lightweight fire retardant blankets made of aluminum that can act as emergency blankets for putting out fires and keeping people warm who get lost in the wilderness.
No matter where you put your blanket, it is vital to place it somewhere very easily accessible at short notice.
Is my Blanket Reusable?
After putting a fire blanket over a fire, you need to leave it for a long time. A common suggestion is to leave it at least for 15 minutes to ensure the fire is completely out. Once you verify the fire ends, you need to dispose of the blanket. Generally, you cannot reuse a fire-retardant blanket – sorry! You’ll have to go ahead and buy a new one. Check your own blanket’s manual for this information.
If you are interested in getting a fire-retardant blanket, read our full review and buyer’s guide of the best fire blankets out there today.
We think a fire-retardant blanket is a must-have for a home fire safety plan. It sits alongside a fire extinguisher and fire escape ladder (for a multi-story building) as the central piece of home fire safety equipment.
But once you have the blanket, make sure you educate yourself and your children on how to use it.
By Chris Hunt