Every year, we hear about devastating fires that happen in homes, often at night, and frequently in the winter months. Many of these common causes could happen at a place of business as well. Being informed and taking a few precautions can make all the difference to avoid becoming a statistic.
The National Fire Protection Association states the following statistics:
• “In 2016, there were 1,342,000 fires reported in the United States. These fires caused 3,390 civilian deaths, 14,650 civilian injuries and $10.6 billion in property damage.” • Of these fires, “475,500 were structure fires, causing 2,950 civilian deaths, 12,775 injuries, and 7.9 billion in property damage.” • “On average, U.S. Fire Departments responded to a home fire every 86 seconds.”
According to the California State Firefighters’ Association, “December, January, February and March are peak months for home fire deaths.”
Top Causes of Home Fires:
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of home fires overall, occurring most often while smoking in bed and falling asleep.
Leaving food cooking on the stove is the leading cause of home cooking fires. Food cooking in an oven can also catch fire. Deep fryers are more frequently being blamed for kitchen fires as well.
During the winter months, heating equipment, especially portable or fixed space heaters that are not maintained and cleaned regularly. Also, not giving the heaters enough free standing space and/or installing them too close to combustible materials.
Candles are a growing cause of home fires, especially during the holidays. Between 1999-2001, the leading cause of Christmas Day fires was candles. The deaths from candle fires have tripled over the last 30 years.
Christmas trees lead in causes of fires involving electrical problems such electrical arcing, with the leading causes of ignition being lights, cords and plugs. According to a NFPA report, during the years of 2010 and 2014, 210 fires per year started from a Christmas tree. Although Christmas tree fires are not as common as other house fires, they are definitely more deadly. “On average, one of every 34 home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death.”
WOOD BURNING FIREPLACES and CHIMNEYS
From 2009-2013, fires from fire places and chimneys accounted for 17,910 home fires, resulting in 30 deaths, 90 civilian injuries and $25 million in property damage.
Steps to Prevent Winter Fires in Your Home
It's the leading cause of home fires. If you need a good reason to quit, there it is!
The most important rule to observe when cooking is “stay in the kitchen!” Distracted cooks and unattended cooking is the major cause of home cooking fires. According to the NFPA, if you have a kitchen fire, “put a lid on it, turn the heat off and do not move the pot.” Having a fire extinguisher in the kitchen is always a good idea.
• Heating equipment is involved in one in every six home fires and in every 5 home fire deaths. • Keep all combustibles at least three feet away from any heat source. • Have a professional clean and inspect your chimney and vents every year. • Store cooled ashes in a tightly covered metal container, and keep it outside at least ten feet from your home or other buildings. • Plug only one heat-producing appliance (such as a space heater) into • an electrical outlet at a time. • Turn heaters off when you leave a room or go to bed. • Never use an extension cord with a space heater, plug the cord directly into an outlet.
• Never light real candles on a Christmas tree. • Keep candles out of reach for children and pets, • Make sure all decorations are at least three feet from the flame
• Set candles on or in non-flammable containers. • Candles should be placed in a location where they can’t be easily knocked over. • Candles and other heat sources should be kept at least 3 feet away from any flammable material, such as Christmas trees, decorations and table linens.
WOOD BURNING FIRES AND CHIMNEYS
• Fireplaces should be cleaned and inspected each year by a professional. • In addition, check your fireplace on a regular basis for the buildup of soot and other blockage. • Clean up the fireplace after use and remove ash and other remnants of the fire to prevent re-ignition of the fire. • Use a spark guard or fireplace shield to prevent embers from flying out of the fireplace. • Never go to bed or leave the house with a lit fire in the fireplace, and if children are present, an adult should be present.
• For fresh trees, picking out the right tree is important. The tree should have fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched. • Cut off two inches from the base of the trunk before placing it in the holder. • Place the tree at least three feet away from any heat source (fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights. • Do not place the tree in front of an exit. • Add water to the tree stand immediately and add water daily. • Only use lights that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory. (One quarter of home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems.) • Use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outdoors. • Replace lights with broken cords or loose bulb connections. • Read manufacturer’s instructions for the number of light strands that is safe to connect. • Never use candles to decorated the tree. • Turn off Christmas tree lights before going to bed or leaving your home.
• Get rid of the Christmas tree after Christmas or when it is dry. Do not leave it anywhere in the home, garage, or placed outside against the home. Find a Christmas tree recycling program.
OTHER IMPORTANT TIPS
• Working Fire Extinguishers: Make sure to have one on hand in the kitchen and near any sources of heat, such as wood-burning fire places. These should be serviced yearly. • Check Smoke Detectors: Make sure that every floor of your home has smoke detector that is functioning properly. Battery-operated smoke alarms should have batteries replaced every six months. The sensor in smoke alarms deteriorate after 10 years, so replace them well before that time. In addition, make sure to have working carbon monoxide detectors on every floor as well.
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