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Winter Fire Safety

Winter is a time where many of us hunker down with our families as the temperatures drop outside. What could be cozier than a roaring fire in the fireplace and dinner roasting in the oven? According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) home fires occur more in winter than in any other season.

FEMA reports that cooking is the leading cause in winter home fires.  Unattended cooking is the leading contributing factor in home cooking fires. Paying attention when you are cooking, including looking for signs of fire danger, such as smoke or grease beginning to boil, will give you time to prevent a fire, rather than have to fight one. Nearly three out of every five injuries sustained in non-fatal home cooking fires occurred when the victim tried to fight the fire themselves. FEMA offers some safety tips for indoor cooking.

The winter months also see a rise in home heating fires.

“Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths,” said Mr. Ricky Brockman, the Deputy Director of Navy Fire and Emergency Services. “Almost half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January and February. Some simple steps can prevent most heating-related fires from happening.”

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  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, such as the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable heater.
  • Only use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Never use your oven for heating.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional.
  • Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • For fuel burning space heaters, always use the proper fuel as specified by the manufacturer.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room and burn only dry, seasoned wood. Allow ashes to cool before disposing in a metal container, which is kept a safe distance from the home.
  • For wood burning stoves, install chimney connectors and chimneys following manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional do the installation.
  • Make sure all fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide (CO) alarms to avoid the risk of CO poisoning.
  • If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not attempt to light the appliance. Turn off all the controls and open doors and windows. Call a gas service person.

You can find information on the different hazards associated with heating your home from FEMA:  Winter Fires – Heating.

Another fire hazard that finds its way into our homes in the winter is a Christmas Tree. The American Christmas Tree Association offers some safety tips for keeping a tree in your home, safely.

Wherever you live, take a few moments to assess your own winter fire hazards for your home. Be sure to check the batteries in your smoke alarms every month. Have a safe and healthy winter.

For information about Navy Housing, including contact information for your local Housing Service Center (HSC) visit www.cnic.navy.mil/Housing.

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