Winter is the time of year when home fires are more prevalent, and the Elgin, Illinois Fire Department offers excellent tips on how to stay safe as people try to stay warm in their homes.
"Winter storms can interrupt heating and electric service, and many times people attempt to heat their homes using alternative means, increasing the risk of fire," said Elgin Fire Chief John Fahy. "What's more, even cooking or trying to generate additional heat from traditional sources can also increase the risk of fire."
The United States Fire Administration reports that each winter, more than 108,000 residential building fires occur in the United States, resulting in 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries and about $1.7 billion in property loss.
Cooking is the leading cause of residential fires, followed by heating. And space heaters account for about one-third of home heating fires, plus about 80 percent of deaths from home heating fires, according to the USFA. And nearly 70 percent of these deaths are from smoke inhalation, and not from severe burns. Even a small kitchen fire that is contained to the stove top can produce enough smoke to kill occupants of the home--one or two breaths of poisonous smoke is all it takes!
Fahy recommends the following to keep you and your family safe this winter:
-If you are cooking anything on the stove, do NOT leave the kitchen while it cooks. Using the stove to fry, grill, or broil food creates an opportunity for something to catch fire. If you must leave the kitchen, turn off the stove!
-Give a space heater some space--keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from a space heater.
-Check electrical cords for cracks or exposed bits of wire, and replace those cracked or damaged electrical or extension cords. Do NOT try to repair them!
-Never use your oven or stove-top to heat your home. This is a fire hazard because they aren't designed to heat a home, and the carbon monoxide gas emitted from the burning gas could kill people or pets.
-Don't leave Christmas trees, wreaths, or cut flowers too long. Do NOT keep these items in the house longer than two weeks. And keep the tree stand or the flower vase filled with water. Dried-out trees, wreaths, and flowers burn very easily and quickly!
-If you use candles, place them in a sturdy candle-holder with a wide base, and which will not burn. Do NOT leave a room that has a burning candle in it--if you must leave the room, blow out the candle!
-If you smoke cigars, cigarettes or pipes, smoke outside the house and make sure all ashes and embers are extinguished by pouring a small amount of water on top of them. Many times, using your foot to put them out does NOT work!
The fire chief also made this very important point: "Most fires are preventable."
For more information about fire safety, go to the USFA website (see link above) and also visit the National Fire Protection Association.
If you or someone you know does suffer an injury such as severe burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.