Officials are warning people to be cautious when it comes to winter fire hazards.
“The threat of winter fires is real,” the U.S. Fire Administration says.
The USFA shared some key statistics from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (2009-2011):
- Winter home fires kill 905 people each year;
- About $2 billion in property is lost;
- The majority – 67 percent – of winter fires happen in one- or two-family homes;
- Cooking is the No. 1 cause, and frying poses the greatest risk;
- 5-8 p.m. is when the most fires break out.
Umatilla County Fire District #1, in Oregon, shared an image on Facebook showing the dangers of plugging a space heater into a power chord.
“The weather is getting colder, and people are pulling out their space heaters. We just wanted to remind you that you should NEVER plug a heater into a power strip,” the fire department said in the post. “These units are not designed to handle the high current flow needed for a space heater and can overheat or even catch fire due to the added energy flow. Please share and stay safe this winter season.”
The National Fire Protection Association says space heaters only cause 32 percent of home heating fires, but are involved in 79 percent of home heating fire fatalities. It advises people to get space heaters that have automatic shutoffs and to unplug and shut them off when they’re not in use.
The No. 1 factor involved in home heating fires was a failure to clean heaters, particularly chimneys, NFPA says. Putting flammable items too close to a heating source is the leading contributing factor for ignition in fatal home heating fires and was behind more than half of home heating fire deaths.
Holiday decorations can also be hazardous, according to the NFPA, especially candles. Candles are the cause of 2 out of 5 home-decoration fires.
Although uncommon, Christmas tree fires are far more likely to be fatal than most others, the NFPA says. It advises residents to keep space heaters away from trees.
With these tips in mind and by exercising some caution, more people can stay safe and fire-free this winter.