BURTON, S.C. (WSAV) – The cold weather is here, and with that comes the need to stay warm. But if you aren’t careful that extra heat could lead to a fire.
Experts say the number of deadly fires increases from November through March when more people are trying to heat their homes in “alternative” ways.
Fire officials say 27% of deadly fires are caused by issues with space heaters and other electronic devices.
The chances of death double for people over the age of 50.
“Your chances of dying in a fire increase about age 50 and almost double as you get older,” said Cpt. Daniel Byrne of the Burton Fire Department. “A lot of our older adults are on fixed incomes so they watch their money they watch their spending and watch their billing so how they heat their homes are often very unsafe.”
Byrne explained many use ovens or stoves to heat their homes or put space heaters too close to furniture.
“So one of the thing we ask at this time of the year every time is check on the older adults,” he said. “Church groups, social groups, families, check on your older adults your older family members. Make sure they are heating their homes safely this time of year.”
Fire officials say if a device produces heat you should keep it at least three feet away from anything flammable. Chairs, sofas, and blankets don’t need to be touching the heat source to catch fire.
“They will take that one space heater and put it next to their recliner and put it on full blast,” said Byrne. “The space heater doesn’t actually have to touch the furniture to get it to ignite. It just has to be close enough”
“And then they will plug it into an extension cord that they will run under a carpet,” he added. “The extension cord is not designed to carry that electrical load for long periods of time, it is under a carpet that insulates heat. People are walking on it creating friction so its really setting up for disaster, tragedy.”
Smoking is the second leading cause of fire deaths in South Carolina. Officials say embers from cigarettes and fireplaces can smolder for nearly eight hours.
“A lot of the fire deaths here in South Carolina occur between November and March, on the weekend and usually in the late hours,” said Byrne. “So what that tells us statistically, possibly is that its the weekend so people are relaxed and not really focused on what’s going on.”
“They go to bed, there’s a cigarette smoldering someplace or an ashtray was dropped in a trash can, or a charcoal grill was left out on the back porch or something of that nature,” he explained. “The fire smolders until 2-3 a.m., fire breaks out, no smoke alarms in the house and you have a fatality.”
Remember: if you have gas appliances make sure you have proper ventilation and a carbon monoxide detector to warn you if the levels are unsafe.
Smoke detectors are a key as well. Most fire departments will come to check on yours, or even replace them for you if you ask.