Multiple fires of late point to hazardous risks

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – At least a half-dozen structure fires in Tupelo, Lee County and the region in the last few days caused the loss of two lives and significant damage to homes and businesses.
While the fires weren’t necessarily related to the advent of cooler weather, they served as a reminder that the seasonal transition raises fire risks.
Guntown firefighters responded to a fire Monday night that destroyed a Guntown home and sent three residents to a burn center in Georgia and another to a burn center in Brandon. Guntown Fire Chief David Wood said no foul play is suspected in the fire.
Lee County investigators are still looking into a Birmingham Ridge Road house fire that claimed the life of 47-year-old Susan Bradley on Sunday night.
A Sunday afternoon fire claimed the life of 75-year-old Amory resident Martha Guyton.
Tupelo firefighters responded to a small fire at an apartment on Ida Street caused by an unattended candle Tuesday.
A fire at a Tupelo building housing three businesses filled Crosstown with smoke Saturday afternoon.
Tupelo Fire Marshal Jason Cross said with winter approaching, the number of fires won’t necessarily rise, but the things to be watchful of are different.
Cold weather-related fire preventatives include checking heating units before using them for the first time in falling temperatures and monitoring open fires like candles and fireplaces.
He said the most common cause of fire they have seen lately isn’t related to cold weather.
“Lately we’re seeing a lot of electrical overloading,” he said. “Improper use of extension cords and things like that.”
Cross said the fire that consumed three Crosstown businesses in Tupelo on Saturday was an electrical fire.
“Extension cords are really only for temporary use and people tend to put far too much on common lightweight cords,” he said. “I’ve seen them run a TV or computer, and it’s only meant for a light load.”
When overloaded, the wiring heats up and the shielding and insulation break down, typically igniting a fire.
He also warned to be cautious when using space heaters.
“People will leave their space heaters too close to combustible items like clothing, furniture and especially bedding,” he said.
Lee County Fire Coordinator David Homan said fire departments will receive more calls in the coming weeks.
“Our fire calls will go up in the next few days due to people not cleaning their filters and turning on their heaters and smelling smoke,” Homan said.
jb.clark@journalinc.com