Fire risks increase due to cold weather

Officials urges residents to be safe during cold snap

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – With another blast of cold weather on the way, Volusia County firefighters are encouraging residents to practice fire safety in their homes, officials said.

"As temperatures drop, the risk of house fires increases," said Jeff Smith, interim chief for Volusia County Fire Services. "Many people will be lighting their fireplaces for the first time and bringing out space and kerosene heaters."

According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating ranks only behind smoking in causing home-fire deaths and second only to cooking in causing home-fire injuries. Most home-heating fire deaths and injuries involve space heaters.

"If you're using a space heater, make sure it's several inches away from the wall and nowhere near combustible items such as curtains, chairs, beds and towels," Smith said. "Check the space heater regularly to make sure the cord isn't frayed and the radiant elements aren't missing or broken."

Volusia County Fire Services and the National Fire Protection Association offer these tips to prevent home-heating fires.

 Space heater safety

  • Space heaters need space. Keep all things that burn – such as drapes, bedding and furniture – at least 3 feet from heater.
  • Make sure the space heater has an emergency shut-off in case it's tipped over.
  • Plug electric space heaters into an outlet with sufficient capacity and never into an extension cord.
  • Use the proper grade of fuel for a liquid-fuel space heater, and never use gasoline in a heater not approved for gasoline use. Refuel only in a well-ventilated area and when the equipment is cool.
  • Turn off space heaters whenever the room is unoccupied.
  • Because space heaters are easy to knock over in the dark, turn them off when going to bed. However, make sure your primary heating equipment for bedrooms is sufficient to avoid risks from severe cold.


Fireplace and chimney safety

  • Have your chimney inspected annually and cleaned if necessary.
  • Open the flue and damper before starting a fire.
  • Use only paper or kindling wood, not a flammable liquid, to start the fire.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room.
  • Allow fireplace and wood-stove ashes to cool and then place them in a metal container, which should be kept away from the house.
  • In a fireplace or wood stove, use only dry seasoned wood to avoid the buildup of creosote, an oily deposit that catches fire easily.
  • If you're burning a fire all day, make sure it gets very hot at least twice a day to remove creosote and ash from the chimney.
  • Don't use artificial logs in wood stoves.

General home-heating tips

  • Don't use an oven or grill to heat a home.
  • To prevent deadly carbon monoxide build-up, make sure fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside, the venting is clear and unobstructed, and the exit point is sealed around the vent.
  • Inspect heating equipment annually and clean it as necessary.
  • Install smoke alarms outside each sleeping area.

"This is a great time to get outside and do some lawn and home maintenance that can prevent fires," Smith added. "Clean out your gutters and remove dead vegetation and flammable bushes that are within 30 feet of your home. Your plants should be healthy and green, and the lawn should be well irrigated."

Smith said for homeowners replace mulch, which is highly flammable, with gravel or rock. Trees should be thinned out so there is 10 to 15 feet between the tree crowns, and limbs should be pruned to a height of six to 10 feet.