Personal Injury Lawyers Share Tips to Avoid a House Fire This Winter

By Leeds Brown Law | November 7, 2016

According to data compiled by the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,298,000 fires in 2014. These fires resulted in over 15,000 injuries to civilians and more than $10 billion in property loss. Residential fires caused nearly 85% of over 3,000 fire-related fatalities.

Did you know that half of all home fires occur during the winter months?

It is not difficult to understand why. Fireplaces, heating systems, and even holiday decorations can contribute to the spike in home fires during December, January, and February. With winter nearly upon us, it is important to remember to exercise extreme caution in your home. The attorneys at Leeds Brown, representing personal injury victims in the New York City metropolitan area, would like to share a few fire safety tips to help you keep your property and family safe this season.

Heating Equipment is One of the Leading Causes of Home Fires

Statistics indicate that heating equipment contributes to one of every six residential fires and one in every five home fire fatalities. Various heating systems pose different levels of risk, but there are steps you can take that might minimize danger. Exercising common sense goes a long way, but as evidenced by the number of fires this time of year, it can’t hurt to take some extra precautions.

Let’s look at some heating sources that can be dangerous and what you can do to help keep your family safe:

  • Portable Kerosene or other fuel burning heaters – Kerosene heaters have caused numerous fires over the years, and many states have either banned or placed severe restrictions on their design, purchase, and use. New York has such restrictions. Approved kerosene heaters must meet very strict size and safety standards. Using kerosene heaters in a multiple dwelling is illegal. A multiple dwelling is anywhere more than three families reside independently. Kerosene heaters are also prohibited in hospitals, nursing homes, and public institutions.

    Even when using an approved portable kerosene heater, or another fuel-burning space heater, you can never be too careful. There is always a danger of carbon monoxide or other fumes building up, and so these types of heaters must only be used where there is proper ventilation.

    Before you can safely add fuel to a heater, you must be certain to wait until the equipment is cool. Even then, you must refill it outside the home to diminish the risk of fire.

    Fuel burning space heaters get extremely hot and can ignite things like loose clothing very quickly. Keeping all adults and children at a safe distance is crucial to their safety.

  • Electric space heaters – These space heaters can be safer than kerosene and other fuel based heaters since they do not derive power from flammable liquids. However, it is important never to overload an outlet when using an electric heater. Ideally, you should plug only one heat-producing appliance into an outlet at a time, and you should not use an extension cord.

  • Wood stoves/fireplaces – Whenever you have a heat source that produces an actual roaring fire inside your home, you must exercise extreme caution. Be sure never to use any liquid accelerants in your fireplace or wood burning stove. Have your chimney and flue cleaned and inspected on a regular basis. Never go to bed with a fire burning or close the damper with ashes burning. You must always allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Of course, you should also use a screen of some sort to prevent sparks or flyaway flames from injuring someone.

  • Furnaces – Having your furnace cleaned and inspected is the best way to prevent any possible dangers to you and your home that may arise from a malfunction. If your furnace breaks down, don’t ever use your conventional oven or stove to provide heat to your home.

The Number of Home Fires Caused by Candles Increases in Winter

Many people love to bathe their home with festive candlelight during the holidays. Because of this, December is the peak time of year for home candle fires. From 2007-2011, 11% of home fires that occurred in December began with candles, which is nearly three times the number of fires started by candles during the rest of the year. More than half were the result of an object sitting too close to the flame. It is important to remember to keep items away from any burning candles- holiday centerpieces, table linens, tinsel and more can quickly ignite and ruin your celebration.

Holiday Cooking Contributes to Fires

Winter is a time to celebrate with family, host and attend gatherings. What’s better than having some friends over on a cold night to make a home cooked meal and sit around the fireplace? A lot of cooking takes place from November through February, and this contributes to the increased number of fires during these months. Thanksgiving Day sees the most cooking-related home fires. It is not surprising that Christmas day and Christmas Eve are next in line.

Unattended cooking is the biggest culprit in cooking fires. Be sure you stay in the kitchen to keep an eye on your food and keep things like oven mitts and aprons out of the way.

Proximity to Heating Sources is the Leading Cause of Home Fires

While it is wise not to ignore the safety tips set forth above, making sure your equipment works well and that your home has proper ventilation can only get you so far. The vast majority of fire fatalities are the result of an object being kept too close to the heat source and catching fire.

You should keep all objects a minimum of three feet from your fireplace, wood stove, cook top or space heater to avoid such a tragedy. Furniture, papers, clothing, and children should be far enough away so as not to be burned or ignited by a spark or a hot object.

Of course, carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors are imperative regardless of how you heat your home. Make sure you change your batteries and test your system well in advance of the cold weather.

Have a warm and safe winter! We hope that you never need to, but if you have property damage or personal injuries that result from a home accident, consider contacting attorneys at Leeds Brown, representing clients in New York and nationwide. Find out what your legal rights are and speak with compassionate professionals who can help you recover any compensation to which you may be entitled. Call 1-800-585-4658.



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