Common Causes of Winter House Fires
As the weather continues to get darker and colder, we all begin to spend more and more time indoors, cranking the heater and using all of our appliances more frequently than we might during the summer. Residential structure fires are common year round, with some estimates placing the total at over 350,000 per year, resulting in 6 to 8 billion dollars in damage. The majority of these take place during the winter months.
A long list of things could potentially cause a fire in your home this season. Though some are more likely to than others. Here is a short list in no particular order outlining the most-common causes of winter house fires and ways you can prevent them this winter:
1) Dryer Lint
This innocuous fluff can really ruin your day if forgotten about for long enough. Allowing your dryer to accumulate lint without clearing it regularly could result in a fire, which it does for over 3000 homes each year. Remember to clear the lint between each use, and don't leave your home while your dryer is running-- especially if it's on the older side.
The activity of cooking a nice meal for your family by most estimates tops the list of winter house fire causes. It's easy to see why: multiple heat sources, the use of oil and gas, open flames... a large number of culprits could be to blame for a fire starting in the kitchen. Injuries are also significantly more likely in your kitchen! Stay safe this holiday season by practicing good kitchen management: keep all flammable materials away from heat sources and flames, make sure children and pets are at least 3 feet back from the oven or any other cooking appliance, never leave anything on the stove unattended (even for a little while), and be sure to keep you stove and oven free of grease to the best of your abilities.
Americans aren't smoking at the rate they once did, but the smoking of cigars and cigarettes still cause many thousands of house fires every year. This is made worse during the winter months because smoking inside a warm home rather than out in the elements may sound tempting, though smoking indoors should be avoided at all costs; the highest number of deaths due to house fires occur in the family room, den or bedroom, which are places people will commonly choose to smoke. When smoking, always use a solid ashtray and never put your cigarette or cigar out in vegetation or anywhere else. Also, keep all smoking devices and lighters safely away from pets and children.
4) Space Heaters
Many people could not live without one of these. They make them in all sizes, some even small enough to sit on tables or desks, and all direct air though red-hot heated coils to warm the space around them. Unfortunately, these useful appliances are responsible for over 40 percent of all heating-related fires in the US, and their use and design have remained very static over the years. These fires are almost all caused by something being placed too close to the heating face or the unit tipping over-- make sure to place them only in open spaces and keep children and pets as far away as possible!
5) Lighting and Candles
These are another obvious cause of house fires during the winter, though should be mentioned again due to their widespread use. Lighting accounts for almost half of all Christmas tree fires (heaters and fireplaces making up a large portion of the other half) and candles commonly cause fires in every room of the house. You should always make sure to replace any damaged or old string lights, never use real candles to decorate your tree, and always try to not overload your outlets or power strips. Also, use LED lights when possible-- they use less energy and don't usually get as hot.
Bonus) Power Outages
As I've written about in past blogs, you are more likely to lose power in winter rather than summer. But did you also know that you're more likely to experience a fire during a power outage too? When the lights go out, candles and generators are commonly used, both of which can cause fires if not properly situated in your home. Even worse, if a power outage is severe and goes on for a long period of time, people are more likely to turn to alternative heating methods (like burning paper and wood in a container indoors) which in many cases can cause fire or smoke damage. Having a plan in place in case of power loss could greatly help you and your family this winter.
Pay attention to your heat and light sources this season to keep your home off the list of thousands of home that go up in flames each and every year. If you do experience a fire loss during the holidays or time after, don't forget to call in a professional like SERVPRO of Bend.