Home fires more prevalent in winter

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WAFF) - The United States Fire Administration (USFA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are working together to remind everyone that home fires are more prevalent in winter than in any other season.

This is due in part to an increase in cooking and heating fires. Holiday decorations and winter storms that can interrupt electrical service and cause people to turn to alternative heating sources also contribute to the increased risk of fire in winter.

Winter residential building fires result in an estimated average of 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries, and $1,708,000,000 in property loss each year. Fires in one- and two-family dwellings account for 67 percent of all winter residential building fires.

Cooking is the leading cause of all winter residential building fires. Winter residential building fires occur mainly in the early evening hours, peaking from 5 to 8 p.m.

Although at its highest in December, residential building fire incidence is collectively highest in the 3 winter months of January, February, and March.

It's a recipe for serious injury or even death to wear loose clothing (especially hanging sleeves), walk away from a cooking pot on the stove, or leave flammable materials, such as potholders or paper towels, around the stove. Whether you are cooking the family holiday dinner or a snack for the children, practicing safe cooking behaviors will help keep you and your family safe.

Each year in America, carbon monoxide poisoning claims approximately 400 lives and sends another 20,000 people to hospital emergency rooms for treatment.

[Exposing an Invisible Killer: The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide]
[Portable Generator Hazards]

Decorating homes and businesses is a long-standing tradition around the holiday season. Unfortunately, these same decorations may increase your chances of fire. Based on data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), an estimated 250 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 170 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. Together, these fires resulted in 21 deaths and 43 injuries.

A wide range of natural disasters occurs within the United States every year. Natural disasters can have a devastating effect on you and your home. You can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a fire casualty by being able to identify potential hazards and following the outlined safety tips.

[Winter Storm Fire Safety (PDF)]

With the holidays fast approaching and the increased usage of seasonal decorations, it is important to focus on candle fire safety and prevention. Because the majority of candle fires result from human error and negligence, candle fires and their associated casualties are preventable.

  • If possible, avoid using lighted candles.
  • If you must use candles, ensure that they are placed in sturdy holders.
  • Keep candles away from children and pets.
  • Be sure to extinguish candles after each use.
  • Never leave burning candles unattended.

By following a few candle fire safety tips, everyone can enjoy a safe and happy holiday season.

Electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 485 Americans each year and injure 2,305 more. Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects, but many more are caused by the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords.

[On the Safety Circuit (PDF)]

The high cost of home heating fuels and utilities has caused many Americans to search for alternate sources of home heating. The use of wood burning stoves is growing and space heaters are selling rapidly, or coming out of storage. Fireplaces are burning wood and man made logs. All these methods of heating may be acceptable. They are however, a major contributing factor in residential fires. Many of these fires can be prevented.

Every year, almost 1,000 smokers and non-smokers are killed in home fires caused by cigarettes and other smoking materials. Fires caused by cigarettes and other smoking materials are preventable.