How to Keep Pets Safe From a House Fire

Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite, back by popular demand for National Pet Fire Safety Day. It was originally published on December 12, 2015. Enjoy!

Dark smoke fills up the house. The flames crackle as they engulf your home, and the fire alarm beeps desperately. It’s an absolutely chaotic situation. As you try to escape your burning home, you want to save your family members too — including the four-legged ones. But how?

“We rescue more pets and animals than people would think,” says Lakeland Fire Department spokesperson Janel Vasallo in Lakeland, Fla. “And people forget that pets actually can start quite a bit of fires.”

The way to keep pets safe in an emergency situation, according to Vasallo, is to focus on preparedness. Some of her tips are:

1. Get a pet alert sticker

Meant to be attached to the front door, pet alert stickers help firefighters identify and look for pets in a burning home.

“Pet stickers are bright and the pet owner can write down how many animals they own,” explains Vasallo, who says the department regularly hands out stickers to the public at events because they are so important. “When our men go in to do a perimeter search of the house, they see that sticker and they can keep their eyes peeled, look for them, and hopefully rescue them.”

2. Beware of what’s around your windows and doors

Pets love windows. They can peek at the outside world and watch for their humans’ return from work. What’s near those windows, however, could start a fire.

A lamp with a hot lightbulb, for example, could ignite if a wagging tail places the curtains on top of it. And if the window treatments go up in flames, the fire could easily spread.

3. Clear your stove top

Aprons, towels, oven mittens, paper towels and anything that is not a pot or pan should be cleared from anywhere near the stove top, since animals can accidentally push those into the hot burners.

This is a particular concern in cat households, says Vasallo, as counter-cruising felines are apt to knock over anything in their way.

4. Don’t use candles

Candles can be knocked down by an overexcited dog or a cat on the run, quickly setting fire to whatever they fall on. Instead, Vasallo suggests going with electric candles, which can set the mood without a fire hazard.

5. In case of emergency, take care of yourself first

If — despite your best prevention efforts — a fire starts, Vasallo explains that the biggest mistake people can make is putting their own health at risk.

“Pets are pretty crafty when they need to be because for them it’s a fight or flight situation. We’ve seen people go back for their pets and then it turns out the pet has already gotten out and then that person needs to be hospitalized for smoke inhalation,” warns Vasallo. “We understand that pets are a big part of people’s lives. They’re like people’s kids so if it’s safe firefighters will always try to save them.”

Because animals are closer to the ground, they are also less likely to be affected by the smoke than humans. If your pets are, however, impacted by smoke inhalation, firefighters are trained to give them an oxygen mask so they can start feeling better.

In Lakeland, the fire department also works with the local SPCA, which has a hyperbaric chamber that helps oxygenate the rescued animal’s blood in more severe cases.

In order to keep saving pets from emergency situations, the two organizations partnered up and released a 2016 calendar featuring the Lakeland Fire Department’s firemen posing with rescued animals. Sold online for $10, all the proceeds from the calendar will go towards acquiring new animal-specific equipment to rescue more pets. In addition to some serious cuteness, the calendar also features safety tips from both organizations to keep both humans and pets safe throughout the year.

Photo Credit: Lakeland Fire Department


John B
John B2 years ago

Thanks for re-sharing this important article. Great info.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

nicky m.
nicky m2 years ago

Good ideas here, but like many other Care 2 ers I couldn't leave my animals if there was a fire. I always feel a little scared on high fire danger days her in Australia, and never go out on those days, but stay on fire watch for them. There is bush land near and anyway I most likely couldn't get out myself, but I could never live with myself if I left them to turn to death. I could never be able to get them all out in time. There have been incidences here of heroic people losing their lives to save their animals and although it may sound ridiculous to those who have never had a beloved pet, to us who spend our lives devoted to animals, it seems ridiculous to think we could ever be happy again if we left them behind to die.

Marie W.
Marie W2 years ago

Can get free stickers from

Lisa M.
Lisa M2 years ago

If I couldn't get my pets out, I would go down with the ship. There is no way I would take another breath knowing my babies burned to death.

Fi T.
Past Member 2 years ago

Never leave our family behind

dawn sturge
dawn sturge2 years ago

thank you

Wendi M.
Wendi M2 years ago


Teresa Antela
Teresa Antela2 years ago

Thanks for sharing. Very good information.

Elaine W.
Past Member 2 years ago

Very good tips and reminders.