Why should you care? Check out these figures from the U.S. Fire Administration and National Fire Protection Association:

  • Property loss per year from winter home fires: $2.091 billion
  • Number of people who die in winter home fires each year: 905
  • Percent of winter fires that occur in one- and two-family homes: 67 percent
  • Leading cause of winter home fires: cooking
  • Second leading cause of winter home fires: heating
  • Leading cause of home fire deaths overall: smoking

Cooking

Just the Facts, Ma’am //Approximately 75 percent of range fires are started by food ignitions, and 43 percent are started by fish or meat. (U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission)

Fixes // 

1. Never leave anything you are cooking unattended on the stove.

2. Be prepared to smother small grease fires by keeping a lid close by. Never try to put out a grease fire with water!  Slide the lid over the pan, and turn off the heat immediately.

3. If food catches fire in the oven, turn off the oven, and keep the door closed. Wait for the charred items to cool before opening the door to dispose of them.

4. Keep anything flammable (paper towels, oven mitts, recipe cards) away from the stovetop, and keep an ABC fire extinguisher in the kitchen in case of fire.

Heating

Just the Facts, Ma’am // About 87 percent of residential building heating fires from 2008 to 2010 were caused by confined fires – those fires confined to chimneys, flues, or fuel burners. (U.S. Fire Administration)

Of unconfined residential building fires, 30 percent started as a result of a heat source that was too close to a flammable object. (U.S. Fire Administration)

Fixes //

5. Remember your HEAT SAFE ZONE – a space of at least 3 feet between any space heater, grill, candles, incense or other heat sources and your possessions or anything flammable.

6. Have the chimney cleaned at least once a year by a professional to remove soot and other fire hazards.

7. Clean the ashes out of the fireplace only after there hasn’t been a fire in the fireplace for a few days, and always dispose of embers in a metal can that is stored at least 10 feet from the exterior of the property.

8. ALWAYS use a screen, spark guard or doors to prevent cinders from flying out. A fireproof rug is a good fail-safe in case any embers escape.

9. Be sure your space heater is in good condition, with no damage to the plug or frayed wires, and TURNS OFF automatically if it gets knocked over.

10. Keep all open flames out of the reach of children, and extinguish all flames when you leave a room.

Smoking

Just the Facts, Ma’am // “One out of four fatal victims of smoking-material fires is not the smoker whose cigarette started the fire.” (National Fire Protection Association)

Fixes //

11. Completely extinguish cigarettes by dousing them in water or sand.

12. Dispose of cigarettes properly – NEVER discard cigarettes in vegetation. Mulch, potted plants, landscaping, peat moss and dried grasses ignite VERY quickly!

13. Use a sturdy ashtray with a good depth, and place it away from anything that can burn.

14. Medical oxygen is VERY dangerous when combined with any ignition source. Refrain from smoking where medical oxygen is in use or present.

15. If you are going to smoke, do it outside. According to the NFPA, most deaths resulting from property fires start in the living room, family rooms, dens or bedrooms.

TENANTS SHOULD CONTACT YOU IMMEDIATELY UNDER THESE CONDITIONS

•Wires protrude from the walls or ceiling.

•Circuit breakers trip or fuses blow frequently.

•Electrical appliances produce a tingling feeling to the touch.

•Wall outlets are warm or discolored.

•Lights flicker or dim frequently.

•An outlet is sparking.

RESOURCES // Get a pamphlet from ALPS to keep your tenants’ families and your property safe from winter fires and other common hazards.  The bright yellow helps it stand out among other items posted on the fridge in an emergency. We’re not kidding about that.

This article was originally published by Community Investor magazine. Reprinted with permission. ©2014
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