How to Prevent House Fires This Winter

December, January, and February are the leading months for home fires as well as home fire deaths in the US. These winter house fires are most commonly caused by misuse or improper maintenance of heating equipment and holiday decorations. In 2009, there was a total of $1.1 billion in property damage caused by fires that involved home heating equipment. From 2003 – 2007, there was a total of $482.9 million in home damage caused by Christmas trees, candles, and other holiday decorations.

There is an increased number of fires in the winter months because people are using more heating units, have flammable decorations next to heating sources, and are not taking the proper steps to ensure holiday decorations and heating equipment are in good working order. Proper maintenance should be performed on all equipment that was dormant during the summer and fall seasons. This includes holiday lights, electric blankets, space heaters, and chimneys.

We know that in the hurry of Thanksgiving and Christmas it is easy to forget to check holiday decorations and heating equipment before using them, but it might just save your life. Winter house fires can be avoided when the proper steps are taken. Allen Keith has compiled a list of great winter tips (http://www.allenkeith.com/winter-tips-to-prevent-house-fires) to keep our Northeast Ohio residents safe this winter. Follow the winter safety tips outlined below to reduce the risks of fire damage to your home.

1. Have your chimney, furnace, etc inspected each year.

2. Do not burn wrapping paper or Christmas tree limbs in the fireplace. They burn very quickly, throwing off sparks and possibly causing the creosote that has previously accumulated in the chimney to ignite.

3. Always use a screen in front of the fireplace. Also consider using a fire-resistant carpet or mat (made for fireplaces) on the floor in front of the fireplace.

4. Use your space heaters wisely:
a. Clear a 3-foot area around space heaters.
b. Unplug space heater when not in use.
c. Purchase a space heater that will automatically shut off if it falls.
d. Plug electric portable space heaters directly into wall sockets, not into an extension cord.

5. Do not put comforters, bedspreads, or anything else on top of an electric blanket while it is turned on. Do not tuck your electric blanket into your mattress.

6. Review your fire escape plan with your family.

7. Be sure every level of your home has a working smoke alarm. Inspect and clean dust from the covers of your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms each month.

8. Avoid using lighted candles altogether. Try safer alternatives such as battery-powered candles. Never leave a burning candle unattended and don’t let candles burn completely.

9. Do not connect more than 3 strands of holiday lights together and check to make sure there are no tears in the coating or exposed wires.

10. Water a real tree to keep it fresh, green, and full of needles. Dried-out trees can easily catch fire. If purchasing an artificial tree, find one that is fire resistant.

To learn more winter safety tips or to learn more about Allen Keith's fire restoration services: http://www.allenkeith.com/fire-damage .

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