What to watch for during peak home fire months

By Katrina Goforth - katrina@altustimes.com

According to the National Fire Protection Association, or NFTA, December, January and February are the peak months for heating-related fires.

Heating is the second leading cause of fires in the U.S., specifically space heaters. The NFTA reports that two of every five house fires between 2009 and 2013 were caused by portable or stationary space heaters.

Most occurred when things were placed too close to heating equipment or when heating equipment was placed too close to things such as furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding. The leading factor contributing to home heating fires was a failure to clean creosote from solid-fueled heating equipment, namely chimneys.

Generators, though useful for keeping a home warm during a power outage or severe winter storm, can also cause house fires if used improperly. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA, fires can start from improperly refueling a generator or inappropriately storing fuel for a generator.

Because generators become and remain hot for long periods of time while running and after being shut off, gasoline, kerosene, and other generator fuels can ignite when spilled on hot engine parts. Generators should be shut down and allowed to cool before adding more fuel, and fuel containers should be kept away from heat-generating devices such as water heaters, cigarettes, lighters and matches and away from living areas.

Along with space heaters and generators, winter is the time when candles are used more frequently. The NFTA reports that between 2009 and 2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 9,300 home structure fires per year that were started by candles. Candle fires cause an annual average of 86 fire deaths, 827 fire injuries and cost an average of $374 million in direct property damage.

The top four days for candle fires were New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Installing and testing smoke alarms every month, changing batteries and practicing a fire escape plan with family can prevent tragedy in the event of a house fire.

The Altus Fire and Rescue Department will install a free smoke detector on each level of a home to assist the community in preventing winter house fires.

For more information, call 580-481-2231.

By Katrina Goforth


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