Citing recent fires in Pennsylvania and Florida which claimed the lives of nine children and one adult and may have been caused by space heaters, the United States Fire Administration (USFA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) announced a jointly sponsored special initiative, “Put a Freeze on Winter Fires.” USFA and NFPA want to remind everyone that fire safety and prevention are especially important in the coming months.
“These fires are a painful reminder of what we see every year – the temperatures drop and fires increase,” said NFPA President Jim Shannon. According to NFPA statistics space heaters account for about one third of the home heating fires yet more than 80 percent of the home heating fire deaths.
The “Winter Residential Building Fires” report released by USFA in 2010, reports an estimated 108,400 winter residential building fires occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated average of 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries, and $1.7 billion in property loss. Cooking is the leading cause of winter residential building fires at 36 percent followed by heating at 23 percent, and winter residential building fires occur mainly in the early evening hours, peaking from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“The winter season brings the highest number of home fires than any other time of year,” said USFA’s Acting Fire Administrator Glenn Gaines. “Each winter season, home fires increase in part due to cooking and heating fires. In addition, winter storms can interrupt electrical service and cause people to turn to alternative heating sources which contribute to the increased risk of fire during the winter months.”
USFA and NFPA have compiled a great deal of information about the various causes of fire during the winter months, winter storm fire safety, holiday fire safety and tips that will help reduce or prevent the incidence of fire in the home on their websites. This information can be found at www.usfa.dhs.gov/winter or www.nfpa.org/winter.
Gaines emphasized, “Winter fires are preventable. Everyone should find out what they need to know to have a safe winter season. There are simple steps each of us can take to prevent a tragedy this winter. In many cases it is just the simple matter of checking for information available at most fire departments.”