How To Prevent a Fire

Best practices for fire prevention

Jump To:

General Fire Safety Tips Open Burning Smoking Materials Tips for Property Owners Candle Safety Tips

In less than 30 seconds a small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for a house to fill with thick black smoke and become engulfed in flames.

If there is a fire in your home or building you should leave immediately. Do not waste any time saving property.

Category  Description Learn More
Fire Emergencies   What to do if there is a fire.   Fire Emergencies Tips 
Safety Tips for Property Owners   All about how to prevent fires in your homes   View Property Owner Tips 
Heating Safety  The dos and don'ts of using heater properly   View Heating Safety Tips
Fire Pits and Open Burning Safety    Tips for how to set up and use your fire pit and/or open burning   View Open Burning Tips


General Fire Safety Tips

Check closed doors for heat before you open them by using the back of your hand to feel the top of the door, the doorknob, and the crack between the door and door frame before you open it. Never use the palm of your hand or fingers to test for heat - burning those areas could impair your ability to escape a fire (i.e., ladders and crawling).

Do not open a Hot Door. Escape through a window. If you cannot escape, hang a white or light-colored sheet outside the window, alerting fire fighters to your presence.
If the door feels cool, brace your shoulder against the door and open it slowly. If heat and smoke come in, slam the door and make sure it is securely closed, then use your alternate escape route such as a window. If clear, leave immediately through the door and close it behind you.

  • Crawl low under any smoke to your exit - heavy smoke and poisonous gases collect first along the ceiling. The air is clearer and cooler near the floor.
  • Keep your mouth covered. The toxic gases from the smoke can disorient you.
  • If your clothes catch on fire, you should stop, drop, and roll - until the fire is extinguished. Running only makes the fire burn faster.
  • Close doors behind you as you escape to delay the spread of the fire.
  • If you are trapped in a burning building, stay near a window and close to the floor and, if possible, signal for help.
  • Stay out once you are safely out. Do not reenter.
  • Call 9-1-1 when you are safely out.

Open Burning

It is illegal to burn trash or debris in the city of Raleigh. The only types of fires that are permitted are fires used for heating or cooking. These allowable fires cannot exceed 3 feet in height or 2 feet in diameter. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources prohibits the burning of leaves or yard debris where curbside collection is available. The City of Raleigh offers curbside collection of yard waste.

While the Raleigh Fire Department discourages open burning, if you do decide to have a small warming fire please be sure to take the following steps:

  • Make sure the fire pit or fire is 25 feet from any structure;
  • Make sure the fire is constantly attended;
  • Have a method for extinguishment such as a fire extinguisher or water hose available for immediate use; and,
  • Be aware that fire code officials can order certain fires to be extinguished, such as those that create objectionable odors or smoke or when local conditions make these fires hazardous.

For complete open burning regulations please refer to the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Air Quality.

Smoking Materials

Smoking materials are the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States. The majority of smoking material related fires that end in injury or death started in the living room or bedroom. As such, people are encouraged to smoke outdoors. However, smoking outdoors also carries the risk of unintentional fires. Here are tips for handling cigarettes and other smoking materials:

  • Use deep, sturdy ashtrays and don't discard butts and ashes in flower pots or a bucket;
  • Make sure the smoking material is extinguished all the way before returning inside. It may be necessary to douse the ashtray with water;
  • Before discarding the butts or ashes into the trash can, again check to make sure they are out;
  • Check under furniture cushions and in other places people smoke for cigarette butts that may have fallen out of sight;
  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach and sight of children;
  • Never smoke in a home where oxygen is being used; and,
  • If you smoke, choose fire-safe cigarettes as they are less likely to cause fires. A fire-safe cigarette has a reduced propensity to burn when left unattended. The most common fire-safe technology used by cigarette manufacturers is to wrap cigarettes with two or three thin bands of less-porous paper that act as "speed bumps" to slow down a burning cigarette. If a fire-safe cigarette is left unattended, the burning tobacco will reach one of these speed bumps and self-extinguish.

Tips for Property Owners

Fire at your property is one of the most devastating events that can take place. Fortunately, many fires in apartments are preventable. The North Carolina State Fire Code has specific provisions in it that address fire safety in apartments. While the Fire Marshal's Office works diligently to inspect all common areas in apartment complexes, fire safety is the responsibility of the property management and the individual resident.

Property Management or Owners


Section 505.1 states that new and existing buildings shall have approved address numbers that are plainly legible and visible from the street fronting the property. Numbers shall be a minimum of 4 inches high on a contrasting background.


Section 903.3.1.2 of the Fire Code requires a NFPA 13R Sprinkler system in all apartments up to and including 4 stories in height built since 2006.

Fire Department Access

Section 503 of the Fire Code addresses fire department access. If the fire department is needed, it is vital that our apparatus can reach you! Please maintain access roads with an unobstructed width of 20 feet and a vertical clearance of at least 13 feet 6 inches.

Storage and Combustible Waste

Combustible waste material shall not be allowed to accumulate as required by Section 304.1 of the Code. This includes but is not limited to wastepaper, wood, hay and pinestraw. Further, combustible materials shall not be stored in exits, exit enclosures, boiler rooms, mechanical rooms, or electrical rooms.

Smoke Alarms

Single or multiple station smoke alarms shall be installed and maintained on the wall or ceiling outside of each separate sleeping area, in each room used for sleeping, and in each story.

Fire Extinguishers

Fire Extinguishers are required by Section 906 of the Fire Code. The extinguishers must be placed in a conspicuous location, no higher than 5 feet of the ground. Extinguishers shall not be obstructed or blocked from view and the maximum travel distance can not exceed 75 feet.


Portable Unvented Heaters

Portable unvented fuel-fired heating equipment is prohibited per Section 604 of the Fire Code.


Section 308 of the NC Fire Code addresses grills. Specifically, Section 308.3.1 states that charcoal burners and other open flame cooking devices shall not be operated on combustible balconies or within 10 feet of combustible construction.
Section 308.3.1.1 states LP gas burners with a LP gas container having a capacity greater than 2.5 pounds shall not be located on combustible balconies or within 10 feet of combustible construction.

The Raleigh Fire Marshal's Office recommends not using grills in apartments at all.

Recreational Fires

Section 307 of the Fire Code prohibits the use of recreational fires within 25 feet of a structure or combustible materials. No open flame device should be used on a combustible surface such as a deck.

Candle Safety Tips

Did you know that three of every five candle fires start when things that burn are too close to the candle? The National Fire Protection Association recommends placing candles at least one foot away from anything that can burn. 

See more tips and facts related to candle safety



Raleigh Fire Department
310 West Martin Street
Suite 200
Raleigh, NC 27601

If your call is an actual emergency, please call 9-1-1

Office of the Fire Marshal

Fire Recruitment

Fire Administration

Herbert Griffin, Fire Chief
Office of the Fire Chief

Fire Stations and Facilities


Lead Department:
Service Categories:
Fire Education