House Fire Danger Increases in Winter; What You Can Do to Reduce the Risk

Posted: October 9, 2021 1:58 am

As the mercury begins to drop, the risk of house fires begins to rise. According to the US Fire Administration, approximately 1,700 people have died in house fires so far in 2021. What is most telling is that about half of these deaths happened over the course of January, February, and March, signaling that the winter months are the most dangerous when it comes to these types of tragedies.

Inside the Numbers

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says that there is an average of over 353,000 home structure fires each year in the US. This results in an average fatality count of about 2,620 annually. In addition, there are over 11,000 civilian injuries each year due to house fires with about $7.2 billion in damage.

The American Red Cross also reports that it sees more fires in the winter months than it does during the warmer summer months. This organization is usually one of the first relief organizations on the scene when a fire strikes.

The most common causes of these fires include cooking mishaps, heating and electrical issues, smoking, and intentional fires. The use of potentially dangerous candles also increases during the winter. The holidays bring an added risk of fires with the use of deep fryers for Thanksgiving turkeys and fireplaces to create a festive mood. Lastly, Christmas tree fires are also a major culprit of flames during the month of December.

How to Protect Your Home

Fortunately, there are a number of action steps that you can take to protect your home from fires during the riskiest time of the year.

  • Smoke Alarms – The number one thing that you can do to protect yourself and your family is to ensure that you have functioning smoke alarms on each level of your home. Every bedroom should have its own alarm. It is also important to test these alarms monthly to make sure they are working properly. Changing the batteries twice per year is also recommended. A good tip to make sure that you do not forget is to change the batteries each time you change the clock because of Daylight Savings. If an alarm is over 10 years old, you should strongly consider replacing it.
  • Have an Escape Plan – According to the Red Cross, you may only have one minute or two to escape when a fire breaks out. Having an escape plan ready can go a long way in ensuring the safety of you and your family members. You should ideally have at least two potential exits out of every room in your house. Be sure to select a meeting place for all family members that is safely away from the home. For example, maybe you want to designate your neighbor’s driveway as the meeting place. Finally, you need to practice this plan so that every household occupant knows what to do in the event of a fire.
  • Candle Safety – It is vital that you never leave candles unattended. Place your candles in a safe place where they will not be accidentally tipped over. Do not forget to extinguish your candles when leaving the house or going to bed. In the event of a power outage, it is better to use battery-powered flashlights than candles.
  • Inspect Fuel-Burning Appliances – Prior to the beginning of the winter, you need to have all fuel-burning appliances, fireplace flues, and chimneys inspected by a professional. This will ensure that there are no potential hazards lurking when you start up these appliances.
  • Be Alert in the Kitchen – Being alert in the kitchen is important at any time of the year, but particularly over the holidays when you may have many things going at once. Many fires start when people use fryers to cook Thanksgiving turkeys. You need to use these devices outside and never insert a frozen turkey into them as this raises the risk of fire.
  • Space Heater Safety – Space heaters may keep you warm and cozy as the temperature dips, but they also dramatically increase the risk of fire in your home. It is absolutely imperative that you never leave a space heater unattended. You also need to position these heaters so that they have at least three feet of space between every object. Lastly, these heaters should be plugged directly into a wall rather than into a power strip.
  • Take Care with Generators – Winter is also the time when more people rely on generators if the power goes out. Although these generators can be a lifesaver when you are without power, it is important that you take care when using them. Portable generators should only be used outside. They also need to be kept at least 20 feet away from buildings or other structures.
  • Childproof Your Home – If you have young children in your home, you need to be diligent about keeping any fire danger out of reach. This includes matches and lighters.

While you can never eliminate all risks of fire, there are many things that you can do to lower the odds that your family suffers an unfortunate accident heading into the winter.