KINGMAN – Nearly 47,000 fires occur during the winter holidays, claiming more than 500 lives, injuring more than 2,200 and costing $554 million in property damage, according to the American Red Cross.
Christmas trees get knocked over by pets and children, overloaded electrical circuits catch fire and candle fires are four times more likely to happen during the winter.
Fire departments responded to an average of 210 home fires a year that started with a Christmas tree from 2010-2014, the National Fire Protection Association reported. One of every 34 Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, and the fires caused $16.2 million a year in damage.
Keith Eaton, assistant fire chief for Kingman Fire Department, said it’s been a pretty quiet holiday fire season before Wednesday morning’s fire that cost a family their home, but the busy months generally extend into January and February.
“That’s when it really starts getting cold,” he said. “We’re always on the lookout for carbon monoxide poisoning, faulty appliances or people using their oven for heat. That’s something we’ve run into in the past.”
As a leading cause of home fires, heating is a concern every winter, Eaton said. Kingman residents often try to save on heating costs, but they need to be extra vigilant in the proper use of alternative heating equipment such as pellet stoves, wood stoves and space heaters, he said.
Kingman Fire Department offers the following tips:
• Turn portable space heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
• Buy heaters with an automatic shutoff if they’re knocked over.
• Place heaters on solid, flat surface at least three feet away from anything that can catch fire.
• Always use proper fuel as specified by the manufacturer.
• If the pilot light goes out in your gas heater, wait five full minutes for gas to dissipate before trying to relight. Light the match before you turn on gas to avoid flashback.
• Burn only dry, seasoned wood in wood stoves. Same for pellet stoves.
• Keep doors of the wood and pellet stoves closed except for loading.
“At best, not heeding this advice could result in superficial property damage,” Eaton said. “At worst, you could lose loved ones who may be unable to escape the rapid course of a preventable fire, as well as the comfort and safety you’ve always felt in your home.”
Here are additional holiday fire prevention tips:
• Place Christmas trees, candles and other holiday decorations at least three feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, portable heaters, radiators and heat vents.
• Purchase flame retardant metallic or artificial trees. If you purchase a real tree, keep it moist by giving it plenty of water.
• Think about using battery-operated candles. Burning candles started 38 percent of home decoration structure fires.
• Make sure that light strings and other holiday decorations are in good condition. Do not use anything with frayed electrical cords and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Always unplug tree and holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.
• Use sturdy tree stands designed not to tip over. Keep pets and children away from Christmas trees.
• Keep anything that can catch on fire – pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper bags, food packaging and towels – away from your stove top.
• Install smoke alarms near your kitchen and sleeping areas. They reduce the chance of dying in a home fire by 50 percent.