How to Use a Fire Blanket – 9 Simple Steps (2020)

how to use a fire blanketA fire blanket is a specialized sheet of fabric that:

  • Is highly heat and fire resistant
  • Does not allow oxygen to pass through its finely woven fabric

The combination of these two features means a fire retardant blanket is excellent at smothering fires. It acts on fires by denying the fire access to oxygen, which is an essential fuel for fires to burn. Without oxygen, the fire quickly goes out.

In this overview, we’ll show you exactly how to use your 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 made of fiberglass. It’s also possible to get fire resistant blankets made of leather, but these blankets are usually reserved for other times like placing them under a barbecue grill or for welding.

Modern fire retardant blankets are not made of asbestos. Many people worry that they’re made of asbestos because they sometimes have sharp fine fibers that fall out of them. But those fibers are fiberglass only. They’re not very pleasant to touch, but they are used because they’re highly fire retardant.

The fiberglass is finely woven into a fabric that is both flexible and fire retardant. It resists extreme heats and fire. The fine thread also helps prevent oxygen from getting through the fabric, so it effectively smothers the fire.

When to use a Fire Blanket

1. For Small Incipient Fires

A fire retardant blanket is best used for smaller fires in their incipient stage. This is when a fire is only just beginning, and containable under the surface area of the  blanket.

Your main consideration about whether to choose a fire blanket for fire extinguisher is the size of the fire. If the fire is larger than the surface area of the blanket, you’ll need to step up to an extinguisher.

The other thing to consider is whether you can actually cover the fire with the blanket. The blanket needs to be able to fully cover the fire to extinguish it. This makes a blanket great for putting out trash can or stove top fires because you can simply 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. For these instances, you might want to decide to get a fire extinguisher instead.

2. For Burning Clothing

Fire blankets are also recommended for use when a person’s clothing is on fire. The blanket can be wrapped around the person tightly to deny the fire oxygen. Once the blanket is wrapped around the person, they should ‘stop, drop and roll’ to put the fire out.

This sounds easy, but when someone’s on fire, they’re not going to be standing still for you to wrap the blanket around you! So it’s important to know and remember – wrap that blanket around yourself and roll on the ground!

When not to use a Fire Blanket

A fire retardant blanket should not be used 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 you do not know how to use the blanket properly.
  • If you or the people around you are in immediate danger.

Sometimes it’s best to evacuate the area safely and calmly and cal 9-1-1 to let the professionals deal with the issue.

Instructions for Use

a) For Small Incipient Fires

Different fire blankets may have different instructions for use. Ensure you always follow the rules of the specific blanket. But, the general steps for use are as follows:

How to Use a Fire Blanket

1. Evaluate your Safety.
Stop and evaluate the situation. 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 is fueled by an appliance such as a stove or toaster, it’s best to remove the connection to the electrical circuit. If it’s safe to do so, unplug the appliance from the wall. Similarly, if the fire is fueled by gas, see if you can turn off the gas source.

3. Put on Gloves.
If you have gloves nearby, 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 stored in a bag that is hanging on a wall. The blanket will have two tabs at the bottom. Pull the tabs sharply. The blanket will fall from the sleeve.

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.

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. You need to be calm and in control of the blanket for this step. Throwing the blanket will not fully cover the flames, and may even fan the flames, causing the fire to surge.

8. Leave the blanket in place.
Then, survey the scenario. 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 situation all clear.

b) For Burning Clothing

This one is a little harder. You’ll need to stay calm and help the person whose clothing is on fire. When someone’s clothing is alight, try to follow the following steps:

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 to protect your hands 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 and continue to wrap it until the blanket is fully covering the fire and you’ve run out of blanket.

6. Stop Drop and Roll.
Have the person drop to the floor and roll. It is often useful 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 useful place to put your blanket is in a kitchen. You can hang the sleeve on the wall of the kitchen or the inner door of the kitchen cupboard.

But other types of kitchens also need a fire retardant blanket. Industrial and commercial kitchens need one, and so do boats with kitchens in them.

But they’re also commonly used in other locations.

You’ll find a lot of people have them in the trunk of their cars to suppress vehicle fires or to easily access when car camping. Similarly, backpackers often take lightweight fire retardant blankets made of aluminum that can act as emergency blankets for both putting out fires and keeping people warm who are lost in the wilderness.

And we have one in our garage in case a fire flares up while Chris is working on his projects down there.

No matter where you put your blanket, the important thing is to place it somewhere where it is very easily accessible at short notice.

Is my Blanket Reusable?

After you have placed the blanket over the fire, leave it over the fire for up to 30 minutes to ensure the fire is completely suppressed. But once the fire is completely finished, the blanket needs to be disposed of. You cannot reuse a fire retardant blanket – sorry! You’ll have to go ahead and buy a new one.

If you are interested in getting a fire retardant blanket, read our full review and buyers guide of the best fire blankets out there today.

Final Thoughts

A fire retardant blanket is a must-have for your home fire safety plan. It sits alongside a fire extinguisher and fire escape ladder (if you live in a multi-story building) as the central pieces of home fire safety equipment.

But once you have the blanket, make sure you educate yourself and your children on how to use it.