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2011-02-10

Peak season for home fires continues

Special to the Courier

Half of all home-heating fires in the United States occur in December, January and February, according to the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment report, which shows that heating equipment is a leading cause of winter fires.
In fact, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 66,100 reported home structure fires in 2008, causing 480 civilian deaths, 1,660 civilian injuries and $1.1 billion in direct property damage.
Personnel from NFPA and the US Fire Administration (USFA) work together to remind everyone that home fires are more prevalent in winter than in any other season.
For more information about the organizations' joint safety campaign, "Put a Freeze on Winter Fires," and a complete list of winter safety tips, visit http://www.nfpa.org/winter.
"Winter fires are highly preventable," said Lorraine Carli, NFPA's vice president of communications. "Every tragic news story about a devastating winter fire is a reminder that simple precautions can prevent deadly consequences."
Space heaters resulted in far more fires and fire fatalities than central heating devices. Between 2004 and 2008, fixed (stationary) and portable space heaters (excluding fireplaces, chimneys, and chimney connectors, but including wood stoves) annually accounted for, on average, one-third of reported US home heating fires and four out of five associated civilian deaths.
Meanwhile, an estimated 15,200 reported creosote fires - 23 percent of all home heating fires - annually resulted in an average of four civilian deaths, 17 civilian injuries and $33 million in direct property damage.
Creosote is a sticky, oily, combustible substance created when wood does not burn completely. It rises into the chimney as a liquid and deposits on the chimney wall.
One in four heating equipment fires started due to a failure to clean equipment. Other causes include placing a heat source too close to combustibles, and unclassified mechanical failures or malfunctions. Roughly half of all home heating fire deaths resulted from fires started by heating equipment that was too close to something that could burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing or a mattress or bedding.
In addition to heating fires being a concern in the coming months, NFPA reminds the public that cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires throughout the year.
This time of year, whether feasting on Super Bowl Sunday or simply cooking to warm up on a bitter cold day, it's important to stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of cooking fires.