To give you an idea of how deep cuts to fire departments can go: Last year, Flint, Michigan, had to lay off 23 of 88 firefighters and close two fire stations. New York City is proposing to shutter 20 fire stations next year. So fire prevention in the home is more important than ever. Lorraine Carli of the National Fire Protection Association says smoke alarms and sprinkler systems remain the number-one best way to avoid a fire-related tragedy. "You could have as little as three minutes to a escape your home before a fire becomes deadly," she says. And while Carli acknowledges that retrofitting a sprinkler system into an older home is expensive compared with new construction, she says the technology can’t be beat for "containing fires, keeping them small, or extinguishing them altogether."
At the very least, she says, make sure smoke alarms are inside each bedroom, and put one outside sleeping areas in the hallway. Keep fire extinguishers handy, especially in the kitchen, and always near an exit door so you can get out if you can't control the fire. To lower the risk of outdoor wildfires, maintain 30 feet of clearance from brush and trees around your house, and keep your gutters clear of dead leaves and sticks. Homes are often ignited when embers from fires fly through the air and land on a nearby roof.