During the winter, we typically choose to stay indoors and eagerly anticipate the warmer weather. To keep ourselves warm during the cold season, we often overuse our home heating systems, which increases the risk of winter fires. The more time we spend inside our homes, the greater the probability that home fires will occur.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), home structure fires cause damages totaling around $6-8 billion dollars annually, with over 360,000 incidents occurring. As you peruse this article, you will discover the typical causes of winter fires and acquire expert-recommended fire safety tips to keep your family safe.
Additionally, it is worth noting that December, January, and February are the months that the risk of fire increases.
Causes of Winter Fires
During the winter months, particular causes of home fires tend to become more common. Here are the following factors:
1. Burning Candles
When fresh air is not circulating in our homes, we often rely on scented candles to improve the ambiance or complement our holiday decorations. Regrettably, between 2012 and 2016, around 8,200 candle fires were recorded, with December being the month with the highest incidence of such incidents.
People falling asleep while their candles are still burning accounts for 11% of home candle fires, resulting in fire deaths. Hence, it’s crucial to ensure you extinguish all candles before bedtime at night and never leave the room while they are burning. This advice is vital and has been widely circulated on social media to prevent candle-related accidents.
In most home fires, specifically three out of every five cases, flammable objects positioned too close to candles cause the blaze. It is best that you place candles at least three feet away from combustible materials, such as holiday decorations, curtains, blankets, etc., to avoid such incidents.
Note: Various flameless scent alternatives are available in the market today, such as wax warmers, oil diffusers, and plug-in air fresheners.
Cooking is identified by the U.S. Fire Administration as the leading cause of home fires all year round, especially during winter when people tend to cook indoors more frequently. To safeguard your home, it is essential to take preventive measures:
- To prevent accidents while cooking, it is essential to remain vigilant in the kitchen and never leave hot appliances unattended.
- To minimize the fire risk, keep flammable objects, such as paper products, towels, and potholders away from the stove.
- Keeping your stove and oven clean on a regular basis can prevent the accumulation of grease and minimize the risk of winter fires.
- While cooking, it is crucial to ensure that children and pets remain at a safe distance of at least three feet away from the stove.
3. Electrical Lighting (particularly on Christmas trees)
The electrical distribution of lighting equipment is a contributing factor to 43% of Christmas tree fires, highlighting the importance of safely installing your Christmas lights to prevent electrical fires.
- You should avoid using lit candles to illuminate your Christmas tree as they can be a fire hazard.
- Replace any string of lights with loose bulb connections, frayed wires, or signs of wear. Also, carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions on how many light strands you can connect to prevent overloading your outlet or power strip, which could cause a fire.
- To avoid the risk of winter fires, turn off your Christmas lights before leaving the house or going to bed.
Note: LED lights use less energy than incandescent lights, meaning you can use more of them at once.
4. Christmas Trees
Real and artificial Christmas trees can pose a fire risk in your home. The needles of real trees dry out, making them more susceptible to catching flame. On the other hand, artificial trees produce dangerous chemicals and smoke, which can cause severe flames.
If you prefer a real tree, choose one with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched. Before placing it on the stand, cut 2 inches off the trunk to aid water absorption. Ensure to water your tree daily to prevent the needles from drying out, as dry trees are highly flammable.
To prevent fire hazards, keep heat sources such as radiators, space heaters, fireplaces, and heat vents at least three feet away from your tree. Also, ensure your tree does not block any exits, such as hallways or doors. Lastly, practice your fire escape plan with your family.
Below are some smoking safety recommendations:
- It is crucial to refrain from smoking indoors to prevent winter fires that commonly start in living rooms, family rooms, dens, or bedrooms.
- To keep children safe, store smoking materials such as cigarettes, lighters, and matches out of their reach by either locking them in a cabinet or placing them high up.
- Use a sturdy ashtray to extinguish smoking materials and avoid discarding them in flammable vegetation such as plants, peat moss, or mulch.
- Before disposing of cigarette butts and ashes, ensure you extinguish them fully by dousing them with sand or water.
6. Electrical Appliances like Loading Washers and Dryers
During the fall and winter, dryer fires tend to occur more frequently, with the highest incidence in January. Most dryer fires occur because homeowners neglect to clean their dryers, which is the leading cause. A buildup of lint and other materials can obstruct the unit from releasing heat, turning it into fuel for hazardous fires.
- To avoid dryer fires, you should clean the lint filter after each use of the dryer.
- Have a professional clean the dryer vent and ductwork at least once a year.
- In addition, you should regularly inspect your vents and ductwork between cleanings to prevent any buildup.
- Furthermore, have someone present and alert while the dryer is running.
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Experiencing a fire in your home or business can have devastating consequences. Repairing and restoring the damage can be stressful and overwhelming, but that is where Superior Restoration comes in.
Our team of skilled professionals specializes in fire damage restoration services such as smoke and soot removal, debris removal, and water damage restoration. We recognize the urgency of acting swiftly and competently to limit the damage and get you back to your daily routine as quickly as possible.
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