Many people are trying to stay warm at home as this winter blast hits the Coastal Bend, but as the weather stays cold, the number of house fires tends to go up.
Experts say there are more than 350,000 house fires a year, and many could have been prevented.
The Corpus Christi Fire Department is preparing for the threat of more house fires over the next few nights as temperatures are well below normal.
“They are using the heaters, some people are incorrectly using the stove to heat the house, bring in portable heaters, all of those things aren’t there normally and now you are introducing an element of what is needed for fire into the home that is full of fuel and oxygen,” said CCFD Captain James Brown.
People are using different ways of heating, and many get careless.
“What we advise is use common sense. Anything that is heat producing such as a candle, keep it at least 3 feet away from anything that’s combustible. Fireplaces, use them for the way they are intended to be used, so just be careful what we put into them. Burn the right type of wood, and don’t over fill them, and don’t forget to open the flue,” said Brown.
The most important thing is to have working smoke alarms.
“Some fires may happen regardless of your prevention efforts so it is good to have working alarms on each level of your home,” said Brown.
Here are few other things to keep in mind during these types of cold weather.
- Plan ahead and have a weather kit available that includes extra batteries, a flash light and first-aid supplies.
- Make sure you have plenty of food and water.
- Make sure pipes are properly insulated and leave all cabinet doors open around any pipes.
- Turn off your irrigation system and plants that cannot be brought inside will need to be covered.
- Don’t leave your pets outdoors when the temperature drops, as the windchill can threaten a pet’s life.
Preventing Home Fires
Home fires are preventable! The following are simple steps that each of us can take to prevent a tragedy.
- Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
- Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a “kid-free zone” of 3 feet around the stove.
- Position barbecue grills at least 10 feet away from siding and deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
- Smoke outside and completely stub out butts in an ashtray or a can filled with sand.
- Soak cigarette butts and ashes in water before throwing them away.
- Never toss hot cigarette butts or ashes in the trash can.
- Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used, even if it is turned off.
- Oxygen can be explosive and makes fire burn hotter and faster.
- Be alert – don’t smoke in bed! If you are sleepy, have been drinking, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy, put your cigarette out first.
Electrical and Appliance Safety
- Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately and do not run cords under rugs or furniture.
- If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet.
- Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
- Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.
Portable Space Heaters
- Keep combustible objects at least three feet away from portable heating devices.
- Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- Check to make the portable heater has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over.
- Only use crystal clear K-1 kerosene in kerosene heaters. Never overfill it. Use the heater in a well-ventilated room.
Fireplaces and Woodstoves
- Inspect and clean woodstove pipes and chimneys annually and check monthly for damage or obstructions.
- Use a fireplace screen heavy enough to stop rolling logs and big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch flying sparks.
- Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.
- Take the mystery out of fire play by teaching children that fire is a tool, not a toy.
- Store matches and lighters out of children’s reach and sight, preferably in a locked cabinet.
- Never leave children unattended near operating stoves or burning candles, even for a short time.
More Prevention Tips
- Never use stove range or oven to heat your home.
- Keep combustible and flammable liquids away from heat sources.
- Portable generators should NEVER be used indoors and should only be refueled outdoors or in well ventilated areas.