BEAUFORT COUNTY, SC (WSAV) – House fires are three times more likely to happen during cold weather months.
What role does human error play in those incidents and what can you do to stay safe?
“We have already surpassed the fire deaths we had in all of 2019 and we are going into our more deadly months,” said Cpt. Daniel Byrne of the Burton Fire Department.
Nationally, December to February on average there are more than 105,000 home fires every year.
In the past month alone there have been three heating related fires, luckily with no major damage. But according to Captain Daniel Byrne of the Burton Fire Department, an important reminder to everyone of some simple mistakes.
Those start with space heaters which are the cause of 40% of all blazes..
“The number one rule if it has heat, three feet,” says Byrne. “Don’t put any appliance within three feet of anything that generates heat and that includes portable space heaters.”
“Don’t plug them into extension cords. they are not designed to carry that much electrical load for that amount of time. They should be plugged directly into a wall.”
“Read the instructions,” continues Byrne. “It may be a hardwood floor only portable heater. That means it should only be on hardwood, not carpet.”
Byrne adds that while a cooking stove can warm your house, it shouldn’t be used as your main source of heat.
Cooking fires are still the number one cause of fires, especially in the Winter. Byrne says always have a fire extinguisher at the ready and make sure your smoke alarms are working.
“The majority of the people who die in a house fire here in South Carolina don’t have smoke alarms,” says Captain Byrne. “Usually they happen between 12 at night and 6 in the morning and the victims are found within 10 feet of the main door. That tells us that a lack of smoke alarms and lack of preparedness should you have a fire in the house is just as equally dangerous as preventing the cause.”
Byrne reminds you to make sure to have your chimney cleaned and inspected regularly.
Make sure your ashes are disposed of in a metal container outside the home and away from the structure.
“People will put them in paper bags and next to a fireplace. Ashes can smolder for up to eight hours overnight before they ignite.”
Children under 5 and people over 65 are most likely to die in a fire – so make sure they know the way or ways out when the smoke starts.
“You have children in the house we make them practice fire drills in school every month, but yet they are more at risk for fire deaths in their home and we never practice them.”
“They should know what to do when a smoke alarm goes off, they should know two ways out of every room in the house, the bedroom, and the window. “
And if your children aren’t able to do it all themselves, try another plan.
“Some children are too young to understand how to climb out a window. we understand that but you can put a firefighter’s chair by the window where they know to sit by the window. and you can get them from the outside or firefighters can easily get them from the outside.”
“The lack of information can lead them to panic and lead them to hide in a closet or under a bed where we might not be able to get to them in time.”
Since a fire doubles in size every 15 seconds, just knowing what to do quickly can be the difference between life and death.
Fire officials say they can come to your home to help determine what if anything may be missing, all in the name of safety.
“We are not fire inspectors in a person’s home,” said Byrne. “A person’s home is their castle. You don’t have to worry about getting a ticket or having your home shut down but we can go in there and give you some tips to keep you safe this winter.”