Fire Prevention & Protection, Structural Firefighting

Fires Kill 900 in Winter’s Deep Freeze

Nearly 900 Americans have been killed in house fires during this winter’s deep freeze, federal officials and the Red Cross say in urging Americans to safeguard against the danger as cold weather continues, reports USA Today.

At least 899 people have been killed in house fires since Dec. 1, federal officials said. That appears to be down from the 990 deaths in the same period the previous winter although statistics are still being compiled.

“When temperatures go down, we see home fire numbers rise and deaths increase,” said Anne Marie Borrego, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross.

Requests to help people following house fires have jumped from about 5,000 a month this fall to 8,000 in January with more than $1 million in additional aid given out compared to the summer, Red Cross officials said.

House fires kill about 2,500 Americans annually. Cooking is the most common cause of fire, and smoking materials are the most common cause of fatal fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

But more than a third of all house fire deaths happen in December, January and February, the association said. That’s in part because people trying to stay warm overload electrical circuits, run improperly installed heaters and crank up their wood stoves.

The cold also makes it hard to fight fires because firefighters also are battling bitterly cold temperatures, deep snow and icy conditions, including slippery sidewalks and frozen hydrants.

“It has been a deadly year,” said Thomas Olshanski, a spokesman for the U.S. Fire Administration. “Michigan is seeing it. Wisconsin is seeing it. Everybody’s seeing it. It extends even down into Texas and the South … because the cold has been so far reaching.”

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