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Protecting Your Home and Preventing House Fires

If you survey a group of people and ask what season they believe house fires occur, most say “spring,” “summer,” or even “fall.” However, the American Red Cross notes otherwise.  The American Red Cross reports that while house fires can occur at any time for any reason. However, they increase during the fall and winter. December and January are the peak months. Home fires  tend to peak between 6:00 and 7:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays.

According to the United States Fire Administration, winter home fires cause the death of 890 people every year. Additionally, they cost $2 billion in property damage each year. In fact, “winter home fires account for only 8% of the total number of fires in the U.S., but result in 30% of all fire deaths.” How can you protect your home and prevent house fires?

By knowing a few of these quick few facts.

Leading Causes of Winter Home Fires

According to the United States Fire Administration, cooking and baking are the leading cause of all winter home fires. Cooking-related fires tend to start when a heat source comes too close to combustibles. Because of cold weather and many inches of snowfall, it can be difficult to cook outside on such appliances as a grill or even a bonfire. It is important to exercise due diligence when cooking inside.

Check out these recommendations to decease your chances of causing a house fire starting in your kitchen:

  • If you are frying food (such as a Thanksgiving or holiday turkey),  keep an eye on it. Do not walk away from it!
  • For anything you cook, stand by the pan.
  • When cooking in sauce pans, skillets, or other stove top pots that have handles, turn the handles towards the back of the stove.
  • Whenever you cook, wear short sleeves or roll up long sleeves.
  • A pan lid or cookie sheet should always be kept nearby where you cook in the event that the pan or food catches fire.
  • If a fire does start in your oven, close the oven door. Do not open the door again until the fire has cooled. After the incident and once the fire has dissipated, have someone check out your oven

What Other Ways Can I Prevent House Fires?


While kitchen accidents cause the most house fires in the winter months, other parts of the house also need fireproofing. The United States Fire Administration advises the following to keep your home protected from fires this winter season:

  • Use your fireplace wisely. When using a fireplace, be sure to use a metal or heat-tempered glass screen.
  • Caution with space heaters. Make sure you have purchased a space heater with an automatic shut-off feature in the event that the space heater falls over.
  • Make sure the way you heat your home is fire safe. Heating home mishaps are the second leading cause of home fires after cooking accidents. If using a wood stove, keep the doors closed unless you are adding wood or pellets or stoking the fire.
  • Be sure fire hydrants are clear of snow and ice. A three-foot buffer perimeter should exist around a fire hydrant in the event that fire fighters need to access the hydrant to put out a fire.
  • Be cognizant of carbon monoxide’s presence. The United States Fire Administration describes carbon monoxide as “a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas.” The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that “more than 150 people in the Unites States die every year from accidental nonfire-related CO poisoning associated with consumer products, including generators. Other products include faulty, improperly-used or incorrectly-vented fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, stoves, water heaters and fireplaces.” It is important to have a CO detector present in your home to alert you in the event that an increase level of CO is present in the home. Since carbon monoxide is hard to detect, if you do not have a CO detector, you can detect CO exposure by being aware of carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms:
    • Headache
    • Fatigue
    • Shortness of breath
    • Nausea
    • Dizziness

Prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to more extreme symptoms such as:

  • Mental confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of muscular coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Ultimately death
R.F. Wittmeyer

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