Recent Fatal Fires Puts Spotlight on Winter Fire Safety

A 75-year-old Mifflin Township man, two young boys in Franklinton and two sisters in a Cleveland duplex are all being mourned as our most recent fire victims, tragically connected by a heartbreaking statistic: December, January and February are the leading months for home fires.
 
“The Mifflin Township fire, as well as other fires across our state these past weeks, are tragic reminders of the importance of home fire safety in the winter,” said Mifflin Township Fire Chief Fred Kauser. “There is no doubt that heating appliances, cooking and flames from fireplaces and candles all contribute to an increased risk of fire during the winter months, but often, they are preventable. It is critical to keep fire prevention measures in mind, to test your smoke alarms monthly and to replace your batteries on a regular basis.”

As temperatures drop, home heating systems kick into high gear. Heating is the second leading cause of U.S. home fires, with half (50 percent) of all home heating fires occurring from December through February. Space heaters account for one-third (33 percent) of fires and four out of five (81 percent) of home heating fire deaths, on annual average. Simple steps can prevent most heating-related fires:

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove or portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot “kid-free, pet-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a professional.
  • Turn off portable heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • The fireplace should have a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container and store this a safe distance from your home.

Additionally, carbon monoxide, which is created when fuel burns incompletely, is often called the "invisible killer" because it is a poisonous gas that you can’t see or smell.

“Residents should have your heating systems checked, and make sure that they are functioning properly, and have carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home,” said Fire Marshal Steve Welsh. “In addition, winter weather requires more indoor cooking, so residents should know how to use all cooking appliances safely and follow safe cooking tips. There is nothing firefighters are more troubled by than losing a resident when the risk of fire could have been minimized or avoided all together.”

Mifflin Township representatives are available to speak to your community group or organization to review seasonal fire safety measures both at work and at home. For more information, call (614) 471-0542 to schedule a visit from a firefighter.

For more winter safety fire prevention measures and materials, visit http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/seasonal/put-a-freeze-on-winter-fires. In addition, follow these safety tips to prevent carbon monoxide exposure in your home. For more information on carbon monoxide safety, visit http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/fire-and-safety-equipment/carbon-monoxide.

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Mifflin Township has a fire department that serves the city of Gahanna and unincorporated township areas. The division has four fire stations, and employs 80 full time firefighter/paramedics, six full or part-time fire prevention officers and 23 full or part-time dispatchers. Responding to more than 8,706 calls for emergency medical service and 2,050 fire related calls, the township responded to a total of 10,756 calls for assistance in 2015.