With the colder weather comes an increase in people using different methods to heat their homes. Although fires occur year round, people are more at risk for heating-related fires during the winter months.
According to Huntsville assistant fire chief John Hobbs, heating-related fires are more likely at the beginning of winter when furnaces and wood stoves are first started for the season.
He noted chimney-related fires also spike midway in the season due to creosote buildup from constant use.
“When the colder season begins, we close up homes to keep warm. We begin to put up Christmas lights, we are cooking more, more people are spending time at home and we have candles burning,” Hobbs said. “One of the biggest risks this time of year is from carbon monoxide coming from gas heaters or generators.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association, December, January and February are the peak months for fires, with space heaters being the type of equipment most often involved in home heating equipment fires, figuring in two of every five fires.
“One way to prevent fires is to keep space heaters three feet away from anything flammable, especially carpet,” Hobbs added. “I recommend checking your heaters, getting your chimney swept and having your gas checked by a licensed inspector. It is also important to make sure you have tested smoke alarms and fire extinguishers and putting them in a location where you can easily find them. It is also important to take time to create a safety plan as it builds confidence in everyone in your home.”
Another risk for fire during the winter season that doesn’t involve heating homes is holiday decorations.
“It’s important to refrain from overloading electrical outlets and having wires on or under carpet,” Crabbs Prairie VFD Captain Stephen Countz added. “We should also use less extension cords and surge protectors. It may cost a bit more, but it is better to pay more for proper equipment than having your house burn. Additionally, water real trees regularly as they may have died out on their way to the store and take them down the week after Christmas. LED lights are a great choice for holiday lights as they are more efficient and do not run as hot.”
According to Hobbs, homeowners should have a fire extinguisher on every level of a home and periodically check to make sure they’re in working order.
He said smoke alarms should also be tested and batteries should be changed out biannually. Creating an emergency escape plan with at least two exit strategies is also recommended. As a part of the plan, residents should designate an area outside of the home or apartment complex where they will meet in the event of escaping a fire.
In the event of a fire, call 911.