Fire safety bigger issue in cold weather

The U.S. as a whole sees an uptick in residential fires during the winter months. Laurens County is no different.

The American Red Cross has given aid to several families in the wake of residential fires over the past week, including victims of a Christmas Day fire in Ware Shoals. Other fires have damaged homes in Cross Hill, Clinton and Laurens since Christmas.

“A big thing this time of year is people using alternate heat sources,” said Laurens County Fire Services Director Greg Lindley.

According to the U.S. Fire Safety Administration, around 900 people are killed on average each year in winter home fires. Here are more statistics from the USFSA

  • Some $2 billion in property loss occurs each year from winter home fires.
  • Winter home fires account for only 8 percent of the total number of fires in the U.S., but result in 30 percent of all fire deaths.
  • Cooking is the leading cause of all winter home fires.
  • A heat source too close to combustibles in the leading factor contributing to the start of a winter home fire (15 percent).
  • 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. is the most common time for winter home fires.

Lindley said residents need to take precautions when using alternate heat sources for their homes during this week’s cold snap and beyond. His advice included:

Making sure fireplaces and chimneys are clean and in good repair.

“We’ve seen several fires from past years where a chimney might have a crack in it and the fires get from the fireplace into the house because of a crack where and ember gets into a wall,” he said.

Space heaters (electric, oil, kerosene and gas) should be placed in the center of the room and away from combustibles such as drapes and furniture. Kerosene heaters should only be filled with kerosene and no other oil, Lindley said.

“There’s nothing wrong with using a space heater,” Lindley said. “But the problem is, they do get extremely hot and that can be dangerous.”

Lindley also recommended replacing older space heaters with newer models, which have safety switches that turn the units off if they are overturned.

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