Surge in home fires expected as temperatures plummet over New Year's holiday

by Montgomery County Fire Marshal's Office
Dec 29, 2017

MONTGOMERY COUNTY - As temperatures continue to fall over the weekend, Montgomery County Firefighters will be gearing up for an expected surge in home heating fires.

Many residents will be looking to alternative heat sources, such as portable space heaters and wood burning fireplaces to help heat their home as sub-freezing temps are forecast to hit the area around New Year’s Day.

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.

Two separate home fires this week were caused by heat lamps set out to keep family pets warm, and in one case, firefighters from the Magnolia Fire Department had to enter the home and rescue the occupant who had gone back in after her animals.

Montgomery County Firefighters have already responded to a number of fires involving heating equipemnt and those numbers are expected to rise as December, January, and February are the peak months for home heating fires.

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.


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