Danger lurks when you bring the heat, Kingman fire marshal warns

Faulty electrical wiring was the cause of this destructive fire in northern Kingman a year ago. The risk of home fires is greatest in the winter, particularly during the holidays.

DOUG McMURDO/Miner<BR> Faulty electrical wiring was the cause of this destructive fire in northern Kingman a year ago. The risk of home fires is greatest in the winter, particularly during the holidays.

KINGMAN - It is human nature to turn up the heat inside when it's cold outside, but doing so is not without risks, said Kingman Fire Marshal Len DeJoria, who offered residents tips on how to stay warm and safe during the cooler months.

Here they are:

• Space heaters need space. Keep all things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least three feet away from them.

• Turn portable heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.

• Plug power cords only into outlets with sufficient capacity and never into an extension cord.

• Inspect plugs for cracks, frays and loose connections and replace if necessary.

• Have your chimney inspected each year and cleaned if necessary.

• Use a sturdy fireplace screen to keep embers from escaping.

• Allow ashes to cool before disposal and put them in a metal container once they have cooled.

• Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. For the best protection, interconnect the smoke alarms throughout the home so when one sounds, they all sound. Test them at least once a month.

• Install and maintain a carbon monoxide alarm in a central location outside each sleeping area.

• Never use an oven to heat your home.

The number of homes that burn each year due to heating equipment is astonishingly high, although such occurrences have been reduced significantly since 1980, according to DeJoria.

In 2011, the most recent year with statistical data, roughly 53,600 homes in the U.S. caught fire due to heating equipment. About 400 people died in those fires and 1,520 civilian injuries were reported, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Financial losses reached $893 million in direct property damage.

The good news is, the 2011 fire statistics were 77 percent lower than in 1980, deaths were down 60 percent over the same time period and financial losses were down 57 percent.

Still, tens of thousands of homes in the U.S. will burn this winter due to heating devices. They don't have to.

"While these numbers are frightening, nearly all of these fires are preventable," said DeJoria. "We can reduce the number of home heating fires in our community by taking some simple precautions and using heating equipment properly."

(Stay in your) Home for the holidays

It should come as no surprise that the winter season is the deadliest time for house fires. Thanksgiving is the worst day of the year for home cooking fires - followed by Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Ten of the 14 days that fell between Christmas Eve and Jan. 6 hold the dubious distinction of having the most fires in recent years, said DeJoria.

While heating equipment accounts for most wintertime fires, twice as many candle fires occur in December than any other month, probably due to holiday decorations and rituals, he said.

"Many people do not realize that they are at greater danger from fire at home than they are anywhere else," said DeJoria

That danger increases during the holidays. On Thanksgiving Day in 2013, for example, there were about 1,550 homes that burned due to cooking, a 230 percent increase over the per day average.

Unattended stoves and ovens were by far the leading contributor to those fires.

Holiday decorating also contributes to the problem, even though Christmas lights are safer than they've ever been.

DeJoria offers the following tips to stay safe this season:

• Use caution with holiday decorations and whenever possible, choose those made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant or non-combustible materials.

• Keep candles away from decorations and other combustible materials and don't use them to decorate a Christmas tree.

• Purchase lights and other electrical decorations that bear the name of an independent testing lab and follow the instructions for installation and maintenance.

• Test used lights and replace damaged items.

• Always unplug lights before replacing bulbs or fuses and do not overload extension cords.

• Don't let your tree dry out. If the gifts are covered in dead needles, you could have a problem. All you need is water. Pick a stand that holds at least a gallon and keep it full.

• Keep the tree, whether real or not, at least three feet from any heat source, such as fireplaces and space heaters.

• Candle with care.

"And last but not least, make sure to turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving the house or going to bed," said DeJoria.