Winter Fire Home Safety

Winter weather is here, and we want to be warm and comfortable in our homes.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, home fires are more common in the winter than any other season.  Eight-hundred-ninety people die annually in winter home fires.  Winter home fires cause $2 billion in property loss each year. Heating, cooking, and heat sources too close to combustibles are among the leading causes of winter home fires.

Here are some things to consider to keep your home fire safe in the winter.

Kitchen: Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and injuries.  The primary cause of kitchen fires is unattended stove tops and ovens.  When simmering, baking, or roasting food, check the food regularly and use a timer for reminders.  If you notice smoke or boiling grease, immediately turn the burner or device off.  Roll up your sleeves so your clothing doesn’t catch fire.  Keep a sturdy lid within reach to snuff out any containable fires.  Never use a range or an oven as a heating source.  Not only is it a safety hazard, it can be a source of potentially toxic fumes.

Furnace:  Have your furnace inspected by an expert annually.  Keep anything that can burn away from the furnace.

Space heater safety tips from FEMA:

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from the heater.
  • Make sure the heater has an automatic shutoff, so if it tips over, it shuts off.
  • Turn space heaters off when you leave the room or go to bed.
  • Plug heaters directly into outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip.
  • Use only heaters from a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Avoid using electrical space heaters in bathrooms  or other areas where they may come in contact with water.

Fireplace safety tips from FEMA:

  • Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out.
  • Do not burn paper in your fireplace.
  • Put the fire out before you go to sleep or leave the house.
  • Put ashes in a metal container with a lid, and keep it outside at least 10 feet from your house and any nearby buildings.

Wood stove safety tips from FEMA:

  • Make sure the wood stove is three feet away from anything that can burn.
  • Do not burn paper in the wood stove.
  • Put the fire out before you go to sleep or leave the house.

Chimney:  Have your chimney inspected and cleaned each year by a professional.  Fireplaces can produce creosote which can ignite.  When burning wood, use dry, seasoned wood that produces more flame with less smoke.

Candles:  Between 2013 and 2017, an average of 7,900 home candle fires were reported each year by the National Fire Protection Association.  Keep burning candles at least one foot away from anything flammable.  Never leave candles unattended, and keep  candles out of the reach of children.  Make sure all flames are extinguished before you go to bed or leave the room.  Consider using battery operated flameless candles.

Other winter fire safety tips:

  • Have a multi-rated fire extinguisher on hand and know how to use it.
  • Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working.
  • Keep snow and ice three feet away from fire hydrants so firefighters can get to the hydrant quickly.
  • Do not use flammable liquids to start or accelerate a fire.
  • Never try to thaw frozen water pipes with a blow torch or other open flame.  The pipe could conduct the heat and ignite the wall structure inside the wall space.  Use hot water or a laboratory tested device such as a hand held dryer for thawing.
  • Plan and practice a home escape plan with your family.


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