firefightersWhile a warm home and a hot meal on a cold winter’s day may conjure up thoughts of safety and security, the unfortunate reality is that winter is the leading time of year for home fires in the United States (U.S.). That’s why the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) have teamed up to help prevent home fires in the winter months.

Through a jointly sponsored initiative – Put a Freeze on Winter Fires – NFPA and USFA are working collaboratively to tell the public about ways to stay fire-safe this winter. The effort targets home heating and cooking, which represent the two leading causes of U.S. home fires. Both types of fires peak in the winter months.

“As temperatures drop, the public’s risk to fire increases, so we want to make sure we’re doing all we can to minimize that risk,” said NFPA President Jim Shannon. “Fortunately, home heating and cooking fires are largely preventable with some basic guidelines in mind.”

 According to a recent NFPA report, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 57,100 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated losses of 490 civilian deaths, 1,530 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage in 2010.  As in previous years, space heaters account for about one third of home heating fires and approximately 80 percent of associated fire deaths.

The USFA’s report, Winter Residential Building Fires, shows that winter home fires occur mainly in the early evening hours, peaking from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The United States Fire Administrator Ernie Mitchell advises, “It is important to know about the risks of fires from cooking, heating, holiday decorations, and using the fireplace. It will take all of our efforts to learn and practice fire safety during the winter months. And, the fire service is there to help us Put a Freeze on Winter Fires.”

NFPA and USFA recommend these safety tips to prevent winter home fires:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period, turn off the stove.
  • Space heaters need space; keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from each heater.
  • Check electrical cords often and replace cracked or damaged electrical or extension cords. Do not try to repair them.
  • Never use your oven or stovetop to heat your home. They are not designed for this purpose and can be a fire hazard. In addition, carbon monoxide (CO) gas might kill people and pets.
  • Do not put your live Christmas tree up too early and take it down before it dries out. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times and place the tree at least 3 feet from any heating source.
  • Select the new “flameless” candles that operate by battery to bring the look and scent of real candles to your home. If you must use burning candles, place them in sturdy candleholders that won’t burn.
  • If you smoke, use only fire-safe cigarettes and smoke outside.

For more information about Put a Freeze on Winter Fires and tips for staying safe all winter long, visit USFA and NFPA.