Cold weather, holidays bring fire hazards

TUPELO – When the cold weather rolls in, so do Thanksgiving, Christmas and an increased chance of house fires.
Tupelo Fire Chief Thomas Walker says his department’s workload increases when the temperature decreases.
What many things lead to fires during the colder months, he said, heating sources tend to be the main culprits in structural blazes.
“Whenever you’re heating your home there is potential for a fire,” said Walker. “A lot of people are still using wood-burning heaters, and that can be dangerous if the heater isn’t cleaned and maintained. Space heaters can be fire hazards and even central heating units because of the dust and lint collected on them.”
“It only takes a spark,” he added.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 3,320 people died in structural fires in 2008, and 84 percent of those were houses. Nearly 17,000 people were injured. In 2008, house fires killed more people than all natural disasters combined.
With Thanksgiving coming next week and Christmas a month later, State Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Ricky Davis said other holiday items that need to be watched carefully are cooking and decorations.
Davis said Thanksgiving is the No. 1 day for cooking-related fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, firefighters responded to about 1,300 fires involving cooking equipment on Thanksgiving last year.
He had this piece of advice for cooks: “Never leave a pan unattended. Leaving food cooking unattended is when disasters can happen.”
At Christmas, it’s all about the decorations. Christmas trees, candles and lights can be a deadly combination if not used correctly.
“Candles are a big cause of holiday fires,” Walker said. “It doesn’t take much for them to catch something on fire so people have to be real careful with candles. And even plug-in lights can be fire hazards, so never go to sleep with your lights on because they can overheat and start a fire.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com.

The Red Cross offers the following fire prevention tips:
* All heaters need space. Keep all things that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment.
* Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended, and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.
* Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
* Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.
* Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, and chimneys inspected annually by a professional, and cleaned if necessary.
* If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs, or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.

Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal