Winter busiest season for home fires, Ardmore Fire Department provides tips for staying safe
More house fires occur during the winter than any other season and local firefighters are trying to ‘put a freeze’ on winter fires.
Ardmore Fire Department Fire Marshall Tim Lee said the department stays busy in winter. Heating sources, holiday decorations, winter storms and candles all contribute to an increased risk of fire during the winter months, as well as other hazards such as carbon monoxide.
“They definitely go up in the winter, the winter time is our busy month,” Lee said. “One reason is we’re cooped up in the house more during the cold, and then we actually use heating devices that we don’t normally use during the summer months to keep our houses warm.”
Space heaters can be useful for warming up your house without having to crank up the thermostat, but also pose a hazard if not used correctly. Lee said space heaters are often the main source of home fires in the Ardmore area during the winter.
“One of the big things that we see with them is they’ll plug them into extension cords and they’re made to be plugged directly into the wall,” Lee said. “The electricity cords are usually not rated for it and they’ll generate heat and cause fires.”
Space heaters should never be left unattended and individuals should always remember to turn them off before going to sleep or leaving the room, Lee said. Any items such as furniture, clothing, curtains or bedding should be kept three feet away from space heaters.
“You don’t want to get them too close to furniture, or sometimes people will be sitting in chairs and the blanket will fall off the chair onto the space heater,” Lee said. “Our fire calls go up in the winter and that’s the number one thing we see here, the cause of the house fires is space heaters.”
Lee said it’s a good idea to keep a distance of three feet between any heating device or cooking surface and household items. “We see a lot of that, we see a lot of cooking fires where they put stuff too close to the stove and catch grease on fire,” Lee said.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, roughly half of all home fires in the United States involve electrical distribution or lighting equipment. The top two days for home candle fires are Christmas and Christmas Eve.
Candles should be kept at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn and individuals should always blow out candles before they leave a room or go to bed.
Individuals should also be wary of carbon monoxide, an odorless and colorless gas that is created when fuels such as gasoline, wood, coal or propane do not burn completely. Heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide, often termed as the 'invisible killer’.
“We run into carbon monoxide every year. You want to get a carbon monoxide detector if you have gas heat in your home,” Lee said. “We highly recommend that you have a carbon monoxide detector.”
Lee said carbon monoxide detectors typically need to be replaced every 10 years and will have a manufacturers’ recommendation on the back. To find out more information about how to keep your home safe from winter fires, visit nfpa.org.