Image of fire and smoke outside of a building

Fires are the most common emergency in New York City. Brush fires can also occur in New York City when temperatures climb and vegetation dries out.

Learn more about what to before, during, and after a fire from the New York City Fire Department (FDNY).

What to Do to Prepare for and Prevent a Fire

  • Create an emergency plan, including how you to evacuate your home. Be sure to practice this plan.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms where you sleep and on every level of your home. Check the batteries at least twice a year, such as during daylight saving times.
    • Locate alarms on the ceiling, preferably near the center of the room, but not less than four inches from a wall. If the alarm must be installed on a wall, it should be placed between four and 12 inches from the ceiling.
    • Accidental alarms often are triggered by bathroom steam or cooking vapors. Consider relocating alarms that often sound by accident.
  • Don't use frayed or cracked electrical cords.
  • Extension cords are for temporary use only. Never use an extension cord with large appliances, such as a space heater, air conditioner or refrigerator.
  • Never smoke while lying down, especially if drowsy, medicated or have been drinking. Completely douse cigarette butts with water before discarding.
  • Stay in the kitchen while cooking. Don't wear loose fitting clothing while cooking.
  • Never leave candles unattended.
  • Don't use propane or kersosene space heaters.
  • Place space heaters at least three feet away from combustibles.
  • Keep fire escapes clear.
  • Portable fire extinguishers can be an important part of your home's fire-safe preparedness. It is recommended to have one fire extinguisher per floor of one's home.
  • Consider renter's insurance if you rent an apartment.


  • Keep your lawn, trees, and plants well watered.
  • Inspect and remove old or dead vegetation and debris from around your property, including roofs, crawlspaces, vents, decks, etc., to reduce fire fuel.
  • Use non-flammable plants for landscaping.
  • Create islands of vegetation and remove large bushes under trees so that fire does not have a path to your house. Do not plant trees and plants too close to structures and under overhangs or eaves.

Home Maintenance

  • Properly dispose of trash and debris, removing furniture, boxes and other material from your property.
  • Avoid building structures with combustible materials.
  • Store flammable liquids properly. Refuel garden equipment carefully.
  • Remove leaf clutter from roof and gutters. Cut tree branches that are within six feet of your roof.
  • Find out your roof's fire rating. If your roof needs to be replaced, Class A provides the best fire resistance and best protection. Visit the Underwriters Laboratory website for additional guidance.

What to Do If There's a Fire

  • If your smoke alarm goes off or if you notice a fire, remain calm. Do not try to fight a major fire.
  • Get out of your home or building.
  • Call 911 from a safe place, such as a neighbor's house.
  • Do not stop to get anything.
  • Do not use the elevator.
  • If a fire breaks out in your house or non-fireproof apartment building (generally six stories or fewer), get everyone out as soon as possible and close all doors behind you.
  • If your clothes catch on fire, stop where you are, drop to the ground, and roll over to smother the flames. Cover your face to protect your lungs from the smoke.
  • The type of building you live in affects how you and your loved ones should plan for and escape a fire. Knowing if you live in a fireproof or non-fireproof building ultimately can save a life. Check with the New York City Department of Buildings if you are unsure if your building is fireproof or nonfireproof. Learn more from FDNY
  • If you live in a high-rise building, and the fire is not in your apartment, stay in your apartment rather than entering smoke-filled hallways. Keep windows closed, especially if the fire is in the apartment below.
  • In high-rise office buildings, only evacuate if the fire is reported on your floor or the floor below it, and descend to the second floor below the fire floor. Other occupants should stay on their floor and monitor the PA system for further instructions. (Note: evacuation of other floors may be left to the fires safety director to announce to occupants.)
  • Feel doors with the back of your hand before you open them. If they are hot, find another way out.
  • When exiting, stay as close to the floor as possible — smoke and heat rise and the air is clearer and cooler near the floor. Close doors behind you.
  • If you are unable to get out of your home for any reason, stay near a window and close to the floor. Close the door and stuff the bottom with a towel to avoid smoke. If possible, signal for help by waving a cloth outside the window.

What to Do After a Fire

  • Check with the Fire Department to make sure your residence is safe to enter.
  • DO NOT attempt to reconnect utilities.
  • Conduct an inventory of damaged property and items. Do not throw away any damaged goods until after an inventory is made.
  • If you are insured, contact your insurance company for detailed instructions on protecting the property, conducting inventory and contacting fire damage restoration companies. If you are not insured, try contacting private organizations for aid and assistance.
  • If you have a mortgage, notify your mortgage company of the fire.

Learn more from the U.S. Fire Administration.

What the City Does

The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) provides fire protection and other critical public safety services to residents and visitors in the five boroughs. The FDNY also works to continually educate the public in fire, life safety and disaster preparedness. The FDNY also enforces public safety codes.

When a large number of residents are displaced due to a fire, NYC Emergency Management coordinates with other City agencies and nonprofit partners to help find temporary or permanent housing and assist with other support services.

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