KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Over the last couple of months, fire crews have noticed an increasing trend. Nearly 40 percent of house fires they have responded to have started in the garage and then spread throughout the home.

“Fires in garages are multi-faceted. There is lots of potentials and there is also lots of fuels, especially if you park your car in the garage which is what garages are designed to do,” Rural Metro Fire – Knox County spokesperson Jeff Bagwell said. “You have be really careful of a couple of things, one is electricity. Most of us have our electrical panels in a garage. The other is our hot water heaters.”

Gas water heaters have a small pilot flame and when flammable fumes are introduced could cause big problems.

Bagwell showed how to have stuff properly stored around a water heater.

“There’s nothing flammable, no flammable liquids within at least several feet of it. I do have some wood products here but they are 10-12 inches away from the heat source,” Bagwell said. “The heat source is all contained in the appliance itself so we don’t have to worry about that and we have the proper flute that takes the CO out. What we want to worry about is the storage of everything else in relation to where that hot water heater is, we don’t want it to be too cluttered around that.” 

Storage is one way to prevent these fires from happening but the best thing is to have a smoke detector in your garage.

“A smoke detector is essential because we’ve had incidents where a garage may be on fire and no one else in the house knows it. We’ve got to be careful of that and let the occupants of the home have as much early notification as they can if there’s a fire in the garage,” Bagwell said. 

Bagwell also noted that it is important to have a fire extinguisher in the home preferably near an exit so that you can grab it on your way out.