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Winter is worst time of year for house fires


Winter is the worst time of year for home fires.

Half of all home fires happen in the dark cold of the period between December and February, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Two people died in a Chariton County house fire on Sunday though it wasn't immediately clear what started the blaze.

Many of these fires involve heating equipment such as space heaters. One in every seven house fires and 1-in-5 fire deaths are a result of heating equipment. Experts say it's important to keep flammable items 3 feet away from any heat source, including fireplaces, space heaters, stoves and radiators.

According to Division Chief Jason Turner, a Division Chief at the Jefferson City Fire Department, the most important thing involving a space heater is reading the directions.

"They're sometimes the last thing we look at," Turner said. "But it is one of the most important things."

Turner said it's smart to invest in space heaters that have an automatic turn-off switch if they are knocked over. This switch will prevent the heater from continuing to heat up potentially combustible materials.

Hire professionals to inspect and clean chimney flues, which can gather combustible creosote over time and ignite a fire in the chimney. Creosote is a flammable material that builds in the chimney over time when smoke doesn't fully escape. The creosote can ignite starting a fire inside your chimney that can spread through the walls of your house.

"The most important thing to have is smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms," Turner said. "These should be installed into every single home."

Only plug one heat-producing appliance into an outlet at a time to prevent the socket from being overloaded.

More information about how to prevent winter fires can be found here.

Turner said anyone with questions about where to find these devices or how to install them can contact their local fire department.

A third of home decoration fires -- such as those seen around the holidays -- are started by candles, according to the NFPA. Dry Christmas trees can ignite fast and burn hot. Keep them away from heat sources and dispose of them after the holidays or when the tree is dried out, according to the experts.

Turner said moisture in the air drastically changes depending on whether you are indoors or outdoors. This causes trees to dry very quickly, becoming fire hazards.

"You have a water source there making sure it stays with water in it and you check it periodically," Turner said. "Keep any open flames and candles, anything like that a good distance 3 to 4 feet away from those Christmas trees."

Open candles like the ones found on Menorahs also pose a threat if they are tampered with by children, pets or simply fall over.

Turner recommends educating family members, especially children, about the hazards of fire and making sure they understand not to touch candles or flames.

And keep flames away from pets.

"They tend to get up on furniture and knock things over," Turner said. "Candles are not immune to that."

More information regarding holiday fires can be found here.

Article Topic Follows: Fire

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Ethan Heinz


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