Winter months bring highest risk of house fires

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 7, 2008

DEMOPOLIS &045; In addition to higher heat bills and the holidays, there is one other thing people should be concerned about in the winter months, which is the increased risk of house fires.

According to Capt. Vernon Waters of the Demopolis Fire and Rescue Department, their busiest times of year are between November and February, which coincide with the coldest times of the year.

One of the main causes for this surge in house fires, Waters said, is the fact that people are turning on their heat for the first time.

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But there are other equally as dangerous wintertime situations that contribute to house fires, such as having too many plugs plugged into electrical outlets, which is not uncommon with Christmas decorations and lights.

Another common Christmastime fire starter can be with Christmas trees. Waters suggests keeping trees watered well so that they do not dry out and pose a potential fire hazard.

But not all holiday fires are a product of neglect.

On Christmas Eve, Waters reports they had one major house fire, with one of the contributing factors being a child playing with matches indoors.

For the DFD, Waters said they most commonly respond to electrical fires and grease fires. Both of these, he said, can be prevented if people would simply be more cautious.

These finding locally is just as common all over the nation, recent reports suggest.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, house fires are most prevalent in December and January and the number of carbon monoxide related injuries and deaths also increase in winter months when furnaces, space heaters and other fuel burning appliances are in use.

Winter Fire Safety Tips

Install smoke alarms with both photoelectric and ionization sensing technologies on every level of your home and in all sleeping areas for maximum protection.

Test smoke alarms at least once a week.

Change the batteries in smoke alarms every six months or when the low battery signal is heard.

Create and practice a home escape plan at least twice a year, making sure everyone is involved from kids to grandparents.

Keep a fire extinguisher or fire extinguishing spray in your kitchen and near other areas where a fire could occur, such as in a workshop, garage or near a fireplace.

While the fire itself is something to be concerned with, there is often another dangerous aspect to house fires, carbon monoxide. Often referred to as the silent killer because you can&8217;t see, smell or taste it, carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning in the country. It is a by-product of combustion produced by cars, stoves, water heaters, fireplaces, gas grills and a number of other appliances. The following safety tips will help residents avoid carbon monoxide and other dangers associated with power outages and changes in seasonal temperatures:

Winter carbon monoxide safety tips

Never run a generator indoors or in a poorly ventilated area, such as a garage or porch, and use the appropriate-size power cords to carry the electric load.

Install one battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm (or AC-powered alarm with battery backup) on every level of the home and one in each sleeping area.

Ensure that carbon monoxide alarms have working batteries installed.

Never burn charcoal or other outdoor cooking appliances indoors or in the garage.

Inspect and clean any soot and debris, such as bird nests and paper, out of the chimneys, flues and stacks.