Unattended cooking and improperly discarded smoking materials such as cigarette butts are the leading causes of house fires in Columbia, but the biggest time for fires is the winter, when people rely on artificial heat sources that can be dangerous if not used carefully.
Columbia Fire Department Assistant Chief Brad Fraizer said two fires over the weekend are similar to many others: one Sunday on Towne Drive was caused by unattended cooking and a Saturday blaze on Jamesdale Road was caused by improperly discarded smoking materials.
He said the Columbia Fire Department also sees an increase in fires related to the use of space heaters in the winter.
December, January and February are the peak months for heating fires and more than 40 percent are caused by space heaters, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
“We encourage people to not use a space heater as permanent heating and never to leave them on when you’re gone or when you’re sleeping,” he said.
Frazier said he encourages people to keep anything combustible at least 3 feet away from space heaters.
More than half of all home heating fire deaths are from left heaters running too close to combustible and flammable items, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.
Fires caused by candles peak in December and the National Fire Protection Association reports that Christmas, New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve are the top three days for home candle fires.
Officials have responded to 11 structure fires in Columbia this December, according to fire and rescue dispatch records.