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

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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 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, which is an essential fuel for fires to burn. Without oxygen, the fire quickly goes out.

In this overview, we’ll summarize advice from various sources onhow to use 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 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, unless you have a very old fire blanket.

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.

You will of course need to check your fire blanket’s manual to find out what your specific fire blanket is made of.

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.

One 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, it won’t be particularly useful.

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 a choice for putting out trash can or stove top fires because the blanket can be placed 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, a fire extinguisher might be a better option instead. These are considerations trained users need to make on a case-by-case basis.

2. For Burning Clothing

Fire blankets are also often recommended for use by a trained user 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 ‘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 the user to wrap the blanket around them!

When not to use a Fire Blanket

A fire retardant blanket is often 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 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. This is why it’s important to get trained in your jurisdiction on appropriate use.

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 and in your jurisdiction. Below are general steps for use 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. 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.
Safelincs notes that, 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.
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 stored in a bag that is hanging 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. 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.

*This is general information only and may not be suitable for you or your circumstances or jurisdiction. Read the manuals, check your local authority’s advice, and ensure you are trained in appropriate use.

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 is why it’s important 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 use 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 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.

*This is general information only and may not be suitable for you or your circumstances or jurisdiction. Read the manuals, check your local authority’s advice, and ensure you are trained in appropriate use.

Where to Keep your Fire Blanket

The most common and useful place to put a blanket is in a kitchen. It’s possible to hang the sleeve on the wall of the kitchen 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. These laws are governed by local jurisdictions.

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.

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 a fire blanket has been placed over a fire, it needs to be left over the fire for a long time. Wikihow suggests leaving it for 15 minutes to ensure the fire is completely suppressed. But once the fire is completely finished, the blanket needs to be disposed of. 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 buyers guide of the best fire blankets out there today.

Final Thoughts

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 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.

Remember, this information is stated as personal opinion for our circumstances and does not constitute advice, professional or otherwise, to you, your jurisdiction, and your circumstances. Consult with your local fire department for information specific to your situation and make sure you’re well trained in use before a fire occurs.