SC fire marshal shares safety tips to prevent fires as cold weather approaches

Local News

COLUMBIA, SC (WBTW) – Cold weather is on the way for the weekend and some parts of the area may see temperatures fall below freezing for the first time this season.

While trying to stay warm, the South Carolina State Fire Marshal is sharing safety tips to help people stay safe and prevent fires this winter.

State Fire Marshal Jonathan Jones says the winter season is historically dangerous for residential fires and deaths.

During last year’s winter months, there were 29 deadly fires resulting in 33 deaths. Nearly 30 percent of these fires were heating related.

“Each season brings with it changes in the weather and our daily habits,” Jones says. “However, the risk of fire always increases any time heaters are turned on and fireplaces are in use. As such, we need to remain vigilant about fire safety, especially since our statistics reveal more home fires occur during the winter months than during any other part of the year.”

Jones offers the following safety tips to prevent fires:

Kerosene and space heaters

  • “Only use kerosene heaters and space heaters according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Inspect the heater for cracked or broken plugs. If frayed, worn, or damaged, do not use the heater.”
  • “Keep the unit on a flat surface at least three feet away from anything that can burn. Use this ‘three feet rule’ and don’t let pets or children play too close to the heater.”
  • “Never leave heaters unattended.”
  • “Refuel a kerosene heater outdoors.”
  • “Always plug the space heater directly into the wall, not an extension cord or power strip; unplug when not in use.”
  • “Don’t use either to dry wet clothing.”

Heating pads or electric blankets

  • “Heating pads and electric blankets also pose a fire risk – especially if more than 10 years old. Don’t place anything on top of either one while in use – this includes other blankets or pets. Never fold electric blankets or use while sleeping.”

Portable generators

  • “Portable generators, commonly used in the winter as a result of storm-induced power outages, produce odorless and deadly carbon monoxide. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to prevent death from carbon monoxide. Never use a generator indoors.”

Candles and fireplaces

  • “Be careful when using candles and keep them out of reach of children and pets. Since it is an open flame, never use a candle if oxygen is used in the home. Use sturdy candle holders and extinguish upon leaving a room or going to sleep.”
  • “Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Only burn seasoned and dried wood. During the upcoming holiday season, avoid hanging decorations around the fireplace area. Never burn wrapping paper in a fireplace; it burns too fast and hot to be controlled. Wait until ashes are cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home. Never put ashes in a cardboard box or bag.”
  • “Chimneys should be cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional. If not, they can become filled with highly flammable layers of creosote.”
  • “Do not use the kitchen stove or oven to heat the home. Neither are designed to heat large areas, and the element may fail causing a fire. Never leave food cooking on the stove unattended.”

Jones also says smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home, including inside and outside of sleeping areas. Doors should always be closed when sleeping as it can increase your chance of survival by slowing down the spread of smoke and fire.

“Every second counts when escaping a fire,” Jones says. “Take a few minutes to test and check your smoke alarms. If any of the alarms are more than 10 years old, they need to be replaced.”

In the event of a fire emergency, 911 should be called as soon as possible and you should stay outside. You should never go back inside a burning building for any reason.

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