By JB Clark
TUPELO – Heaters all over Northeast Mississippi have been turned on recently for the first time this fall and Tupelo Fire Chief Thomas Walker said he’s already seen two fires related to heating equipment.
Walker said the residents of a Barley Courts apartment unit pushed a couch against an electric wall heater earlier in the year and when the heater came on early Thursday morning, the couch caught fire, destroying two apartment units and damaging two others.
“We had another one about three weeks ago when the first cool snap came through,” he said. “It was a space heater too close to clothes and we had a small fire. If you can keep everything three feet away from the heat source you should be safe.”
Walker said men, women and children are the leading cause of fires and as the holiday season approaches, they are home and around the kitchen more, utilizing decorative lights, candles and Christmas trees. “That all ups your chances of the fire happening,” Walker said.
The number of residential fires greatly increases from November until March. Those five months account for nearly half of the fires and an average of 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries and $1.7 billion in property loss nationwide each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. The USFA estimates 2,000 residential fires happen each year on Thanksgiving Day, 69 percent caused while cooking.
Walker said, when dealing with a cooking fire, it is important to call 911 before doing anything else.
At Christmastime, an average of 230 fires each year start with the Christmas tree.
“A lot of time we catch fires farther along because people tried to put the fires out themselves,” he said. “The longer the heat builds and the fire grows, the more damage there will be.”
Tupelo Fire Chief Thomas Walker’s holiday fire safety tips:
• Keep anything flammable at least three feet from a heat source
• Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stovetop
• Don’t leave lit candles unattended
• Use LED Christmas lights when available
• Notify 911 immediately in case of fire
• Water fresh Christmas trees daily and dispose of dried-out trees immediately