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Freezing the flames: Tips to avoid residential fires this winter

As temperatures get colder, fire prevention experts offer advice on potential fire hazards and what should people do to stay safe.
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 6:54 PM CST
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(WIFR) - Space heaters, fireplaces and electric blankets are some items people use to stay warm and toasty during the winter. But they can also turn your home into a danger zone.

Earlier this week a space heater in the Bronx, New York set off a fire inside an apartment building, killing nearly 20 people. Safety experts say there are a few simple steps to help avoid sending your home up in flames or taking the life of a loved one.

“Once a fire gets rolling about every 30-40 seconds it doubles in size as it geometrically progresses, so people don’t realize how fast fire actually does spread,” says Cherry Valley Fire Inspector Jon Reitman.

Oftentimes only one power strip is used to get those items running. Fire prevention experts say just because there are multiple ports in those strips doesn’t mean you should use all of them.

“This draws so much energy and if you have a strip that does not have a surge protector, you can cause a fire,” says South Beloit Fire Chief Gary Brown.

Chief Brown says it was missing a circuit breaker and ignited items around it. He urges residents to keep flammable items away from heat sources.

“You want to have at least three feet of clear space around every space heater,” Brown says.

Reitman recommends continuously checking that your smoke detectors work and that you create a plan just in case something goes wrong.

“With your family, you’re going to want to practice just go over a fire escape plan going out in two different ways to get out of wherever you’re living. Usually, doors and windows are good ways to get out and having a meeting place for once everybody’s outside,” says Reitman.

All the chiefs say if you don’t know what else to do, pick up the phone and dial 911.

Reitman says smoke detectors should be tested once a month and always change the batteries when we “spring forward” and “fall back” with the time changes. If your smoke detectors are connected to each other, make sure they are well maintained.

The National Fire Protection Association recommends that you have at least one smoke detector on every level of your home and for newer homes, have one in every bedroom.

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