Mild temperatures are on the way out and colder temperatures are in our forecast this weekend. The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department (PGFD) is reminding everyone that home fires are more prevalent in cold weather than in any other time of the year. This is due in part to an increase in cooking and heating fires. This reminder involves the safe use of space heaters and general heating safety tips.
The civilian, volunteer and paid men and women of the Fire/EMS Department want to remind everyone that fire safety and prevention are especially important during times of cold temperatures.
“Temperatures drop and fires increase,” said Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor. According to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics space heaters account for about one third of the home heating fires yet more than 80 percent of the home heating fire deaths. The United States Fire Administration (USFA), reports:
- 905 people die in winter home fires each year.
- $2,091,000,000 in property loss occurs from winter home fires.
- 67 percent of winter fires occur in one- and two-family homes.
- Cooking is the leading cause of all winter home fires.
- 5 to 8 p.m. is the most common time for winter home fires.
“Colder temperatures during the winter brings the highest number of home fires than any other time of year,” said Fire Chief Bashoor. “Each season, home fires increase in part due to cooking and heating fires. Fire safety and injury prevention must not be lost in an effort to stay warm. Stay warm and do so safely. Safety First ensures everyone goes home.”
The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department recommend the following safety tips for space heaters.
· Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
· Check to make sure it has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over or if placed too close to an object.
· Heaters are not dryers or tables; don’t dry clothes or store objects on top of your heater.
· Space heaters need space; keep combustibles at least three feet away from each heater.
· Always unplug your electric space heater when not in use.
· Turn off at night or whenever you sleep.
· Never use an extension cord with space heaters – plug directly into wall socket.
Kerosene space heater
· Never refuel indoors.
· Remove the kerosene heater outdoors, turn off and wait for it to cool down before refueling and only use the correct type of fuel.
General Heating Tips
• Furnaces, fireplaces and chimneys should be cleaned and checked each year by an appropriate professional prior to using. Clear away any clutter from these heating devices, at least 3 feet away.
• Only use seasoned wood in fireplaces, never use ignitable liquids to start a fire and do not overload your appliance.
• The 3-foot rule also applies to furnaces and fireplaces. No combustibles items within 3 feet of these heating appliances.
• Dispose of fireplace ash into a metal container and store outdoors away from structures on a concrete surface. Fireplace ash can ignite a fire days after they have been discarded.
Finally, ensure your smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are working by pushing the test button on the front cover. Your alarms should be tested monthly on the first day of every month – Safety First Day of the Month. If you do not hear an audible warning, replace your alarm with a new 10-year, tamper proof, with hush feature alarm. Having a working smoke alarm on every level of your home, in hallways just outside of sleeping areas and in every bedroom in addition to a exit drill in the home plan and practiced dramatically increases your chances of surviving a burning home. Remember to sleep with your bedroom door closed.
A working CO detector will protect you and your family from deadly “silent killer” fumes that may be building up in your home. Prince Georges County Law requires a CO detector on every level of your home, in all apartments hotel/motels, dorms, etc.
Remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family. Identify 2 ways out of every room in your house and designate a safe meeting place outside.
For additional information from the USFA on Winter Fire Safety; click here.