Safety reminders from fire marshal after house in Montgomery County burns down

by Montgomery County Fire Marshal's Office
Dec 07, 2017

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas -- Residents will be firing up their home’s heating appliances, many for the first time this year.

Home heating fires often occur at the worst possible time, breaking out in the middle of the night while our families are asleep. The number one safety recommendation is to first and foremost have working smoke detectors throughout the home, especially in all sleeping areas. Having working smoke alarms dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire.

On Dec. 6, a Willis resident awoke to find a fire had started in the wall near a wood burning fireplace in his two story home off Samuel Drive northeast of Willis. Firefighters from Montgomery County ESD #1 and the New Waverly Fire Department responded with 3 engines and 3 tankers, arriving to find heavy fire conditions throughout the home. The home was destroyed by the fire but fortunately there were no injuries.

December, January, and February are the peak months for home heating fires, making the next three months the peak time for home fires to occur. Cooking is the number one cause of fires year round, but home heating fires that break out at night can be deadly, especially in homes not equipped with working smoke alarms. Working smoke alarms cuts the chances of you and your family dying in a home fire in half.

Between 2009 and 2013, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 56,000 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated losses of 470 civilian deaths, 1,490 civilian injuries, and $1.0 billion in direct property damage. These fires accounted for 16% of all reported home fires.

Preventing Home Heating Fires

A leading factor contributing to home heating fire deaths was heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding. Many heating fires can be prevented by following basic safety tips when dealing with any heating equipment:

  • Keep or maintain a 3 foot clearance between all heating equipment and anything that can burn.
  • Inspect and maintain heating equipment regularly for safety.
  • Be sure to have fixed space heaters installed by a qualified technician, according to manufacturer’s instructions or applicable codes.  Or, make sure a qualified technician checks to see the unit has been properly installed.
  • When buying a new, portable space heater, make sure it has the label showing it is listed by a recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Space heaters should be turned off every time you leave the room and before going to bed.
  • Choose space heaters that turn off automatically if they tip over.
  • Never use a space heater to dry clothing.
  • Do not use your oven to heat your home.
  • Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home.  For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home.  When one sounds, they all sound. 
  • Test smoke alarms monthly.
  • If your home is equipped with gas appliances, install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms to avoid risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Facts & Figures

Based on 2009-2013 annual averages:

  • Space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for two of every five (40%) of home heating fires and four out of five (84%) of home heating fire deaths.
  • The leading factor contributing to home heating fires (30%) was failure to clean, principally creosote from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.
  • Placing things that can burn too close to heating equipment or placing heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding, was the leading factor contributing to ignition in fatal home heating fires and accounted for more than half (56%) of home heating fire deaths.
  • Nearly half (49%) of all home heating fires occurred in December, January and February.

For more information on home heating safety, visit

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