House Fires In Winter
What time of year do you usually think of as the biggest concern for house fires? If you think it’s during the heat of summer, it turns out you’re wrong. According to the American Red Cross and the U.S. Fire Administration, fires go up in winter. It’s pretty obvious why, if you think about it. Let’s break it down.
Winter is cold. You can expect it to get noticeably colder in the winter, with a good chance of snow in many states. You might think that the cold makes it less likely for their to be a fire. That’s exactly why winter sees an increase: you aren’t expecting it. Additionally, because it’s colder, you’re spending more time indoors and more energy to heat your house up. You run the heater more often. If your heater is old and doesn’t work so well, maybe you bring out the space heaters and blankets. If you’ve got a chimney, maybe you light a fire in the fireplace. I know I love a good, roaring fire.
Unless the fire gets out. And there you see the risk. If you haven’t properly cleaned your heater, it’s full of dust that might light up when the heater gets going. Space heaters seem like a convenient and cheap alternative to redoing your old house heater, but get careless with them and they can light up any blankets, paper, or even carpets near them. Accidents with space heaters are by far the most common cause of house fires in winter. And that fireplace? If it isn’t properly cleaned, the residue of many years of burning wood becomes a highly flammable substance that can see your whole chimney go up in flames. Even cleaned out, without good fire safety precautions, a stray ember from the fire might land on the carpet and set it ablaze.
House Fires Are Easily Prevented
Basic fire safety isn’t that complicated and it’s really all you need to prevent house fires. Routine check-ups on your heating and ventilation system will spot any potential fire dangers. A professional chimney cleaner can scrub out the flammable residue in your chimney. Properly managing your heater can prevent it from getting too hot while also saving you a bit of money on your gas bill.
Space Heaters Are Dangerous
What about space heaters? Well, if you don’t need them, don’t use them. With a proper heating system installed, you shouldn’t need one. If you don’t have one and can afford to get one, the investment is, without question, worth it. If you must use a space heater, however, there are some basic safety tips to follow. First, you want to make sure you keep anything that could start a fire at least three feet from it. That may seem like a long distance, but it’s really not. Those things need to get super hot to heat up a whole room. Furthermore, you should never leave them on when you can’t watch them. If there’s any electrical malfunction – always a possibility with any electric device – a fire is sure to start. Even if you’re home, don’t leave it running if you aren’t able to watch it, including when you go to sleep. A lot of fires start because people leave a space heater running while they slept. To make sure you avoid burning your house down, you need to be able to shut the space heater off the instant something goes wrong and you can’t do that if you have to wake up first.
Fire safety for your chimney and fireplace are pretty simple. You should have a wire mesh curtain on your fireplace to prevent embers and sparks from leaving the fireplace. If you have a gas powered fireplace with a glass covering over it, this much isn’t a problem. Cleaning out your chimney every couple of years will prevent build-up of flammable residue. It’s also a good idea to keep your kids from playing in the fire. Kids are always tempted to play with open flames, but the chimney is no place for firebugs.
Grease fires from cooking are another common cause of winter house fires. With the weather getting cold, we’ll be inclined to do more of our cooking indoors, which means more chances for accidents. Here again, some basic safety precautions can help. The most important one is never leave your stove or oven going when you aren’t watching it. Even just going to answer the door when someone rings the bell can be enough time for a fire to start. If one does break out from a cooking appliance, you might have only 30 seconds before the fire gets completely out of control. In addition to always watching while you cook, you should also know how your oven/stove works so you can avoid overheating it while cooking.
Know What To Do If A Fire Does Start
If you take every precaution, you should be fine. Even so, accidents can happen. If a fire does start, you want to know what to do about it. Every home should have a couple different types of fire extinguishers on hand to put out fires quickly if they start. It’s not good enough to just have a single extinguisher because different types of fires need to be put out in different ways. If you try to put out a grease fire on the stove with water, the results can be explosive. The wrong type of fire extinguisher might have no effect on some types of fires.
When preparing for winter, you should take time to learn about the types of fires and the best ways to put them out. Even if you’re able to put the fire out before it seems to get out of control, be sure you call the fire department. They can walk you through the process of making sure the fire can’t restart, or come check on the damage itself and make sure there’s no more risk to you. Make sure you follow their instructions.
What To Expect After A Fire
The number one priority of a fireman will always be to put out the fire. When it comes to extinguishing a blaze, they do not care about anything else. They will use axes to cut their way to the fire if they must. When they pull out the hose, they don’t care if the water and pressure will damage other things in the home. That fire must go out; if it doesn’t, it might spread! This means if your house does catch fire and that fire gets out of control, you’re going to have a lot of damage to contend with.
That said, restoration is always possible. You might loose a few things, but you’ll be surprised how much a good restoration company can fix things up. How much it costs and how fast you can get it depends on the company you hire and the insurance you have. If you haven’t got a fire insurance policy, or haven’t reviewed it in a while, not might be a good time to check. Fire insurance can be relatively inexpensive, but a good plan will cover a lot. It’s certainly better than covering your repair bills out of pocket.
Fire Alarms Are a Must
Fire alarms are a lifesaver if something goes wrong. They can detect the smoke and gasses put off by fires well before you notice them, giving you ample time to get to safety. A fire alarm is no good if its batteries die, though. Modern fire alarms can supposedly last up to 15 years, but that’s no reason to assume you’re safe. You should test your fire alarms annual to make sure they’re still working and the batteries are still charged. If a fire does start, the alarm can make all the difference to getting out of it unharmed.
There’s no telling what kind of winter we’re going to have this year. One thing is certain though, it’s going to get colder and you’ll end up spending more time indoors trying to keep it warm. This is going to put you at increased risk of a house fire. Make sure you’re taking every precaution to avoid it. Most house fires could have easily been prevented by just a little bit of caution.
So stay safe this winter and enjoy your holidays!