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4 Tips to Help Avoid Fires This Winter

Posted: March 09, 2015

House fires are the most common during the winter months and there are reasons why. During this time of year, people use items like space heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces to stay warm and cozy. Unfortunately, it’s possible that their efforts aren’t as safe as one would expect. House fires can happen when you least expect it – even when you’re relaxing with one or two candles lit. If you are aware of the dangers, you'll be able to help prevent fires more easily. Here are some tips that will help keep you safe this winter.

Heat Your Home Safely

Heating your home when the temperature drops outside is extremely important. In an ideal world, all you would have to do is turn up the thermostat. In some cases, however, you might need to use secondary methods of heating your home such as space heaters, fireplaces, or woodstoves. While these are satisfactory ways of heating your home, such methods can be dangerous if done improperly. Here are some tips that can help you use secondary-heating sources safely and effectively:

  • Space heaters should be sitting on the floor and at least three feet away from anything flammable.
  • Woodstoves should be at least three feet from anything flammable, and the pipe for the smoke should be clear of any obstructions.
  • Fireplaces should have a metal screen or grate to catch embers and sparks. Additionally, you should schedule an annual inspection each fall before you use it.
  • Never use your oven, toaster, or any appliance to heat your home that isn’t designed to do so.

Practice Safe Cooking

While cooking is something people do year-round, it’s assumed that people eat-in more often when the weather is frigid and the roads are too slick. That said, many house fires start from a stove, oven, or other cooking appliance that’s unattended. A common cause of most house fires comes from people forgetting to turn off appliances. In fact, one of the most common occurrences is a stovetop being left on. So, before sitting down to the table, or spending time with the family, make sure you double-check that all appliances have been turned off and have cooled sufficiently. In regards to the stovetop, you might even consider running the overhead exhaust fan for a minute or two after you’ve turned everything off.

Be Conscious of Candles and Other Flames

There are few things nicer than lighting some candles (or lighting a fire in the fireplace) and relaxing on the couch with your favorite book. But like all things fire related, folks should err on the side of caution. Here are some tips for using fireplaces and candles safely:

  • Have someone in the room keep a watchful eye on any open flames.
  • Candles should be placed in a fireproof candleholder where it cannot be knocked or kicked over.
  • Keep any open flames away from decorations, curtains, or other flammable objects.
  • Before falling asleep, make sure all flames are extinguished.

Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors obviously cannot keep you from starting fires, but they can alert you of a fire when it has just begun. As long as the batteries are fully charged and the smoke detector is in the room with the fire, the detector will most likely go off before the fire gets out of hand. Smoke detectors are an extremely important part of helping to keep your home safe, but it doesn't mean you can forget about being watchful and conscious of a possible fire hazard. Here are some tips for using and maintaining smoke detectors.

  • Check the batteries and test each detector every month.
  • Vacuum and dust around your smoke detectors regularly.
  • If the smoke detector is over ten years old, replace it.
  • Try to place a smoke detector in each room of the house. If you cannot, make sure there's one in the kitchen, one in all of the bedrooms, and one just outside of the sleeping areas of the house.

Fire safety is only a small part of helping to keep your home safe, but it is a very important part. Much like other parts of home safety and home protection, fire safety is about being observant of the things going on in and around your house. If you're able to keep an eye out for any danger, you'll be able to avoid many problems.