A reminder about winter fire safety

Published 8:20 am Wednesday, February 7, 2018

House fires are no respecter of addresses. They can happen in houses located in county hollows and on mountain roads as well as city streets. Monday’s fire on Watauga Avenue in the heart of Elizabethton was one of the biggest residential fires city firemen have been called on in some time. Flames devoured the modest home in a matter of minutes.
“Any season is bad for a fire, but especially during the winter months, it is hard,” said City fireman Rusty Barnett. Although the city has had only two house fires since the first of the year and no fatalities or injuries, Tennessee, overall, had 20 fire fatalities in January, making it the third deadliest month since 2010. Historically, January leads all other months in residential fires, heating fires, and fatal fires in Tennessee.
While fire safety efforts are important all year long, winter brings more-related tragedies in Tennessee than any other season. With two more months of winter still ahead, local residents are urged to follow safety precautions in order to avoid common winter fire hazards and help prevent fire-related deaths.
Carter County and much of the state has had some brutally cold weather this winter, which has played a significant role in elevating the fire death toll in Tennessee. State fire officials say when the temperatures drop below 32 degrees Tennesseans are 40 percent more likely to have a home fire than if it were above 32 degrees. For temperatures below 15 degrees, Tennesseans are twice as likely to have a fire.
As uncomfortable as the winter cold can get, out-of-control heat generated by attempts to ward off the cold can be much worse. As frigid air pushes up heating bills, some people are seeking alternative ways to keeping the house — if not all warm and cozy — at least tolerable when bodies are layered in winter clothes.
Heating fires are believed to be a major contributing factor for the increase this winter in state fires and fire deaths. Among the causes are electric space heaters and wood stoves.
Wood stoves and fireplaces might seem a cheaper alternative to traditional heating sources, however the state fire marshal warns they can pose a significant fire and carbon monoxide risk if not properly installed and maintained.
Local fire officials stress the need of always turning off portable space heaters when leaving a room and testing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they’re working, practice a home fire escape plan with your family, and always close the door behind you if you have to escape a fire.
Elizabethton Fire Chief Barry Carrier said his department is still installing smoke detectors in homes, that are in need of them. “Smoke detectors are a must. They save lives. If you do not have working smoke detectors, we urge a family member to call the fire department, and we will come out and install one free of charge. All you have to do is call the fire department and give your name, address, and telephone number,” Carrier said.
Stay warm this winter, but be sure to keep high heat in its place. It only takes a couple of minutes for a fire to become life-threatening. Let Monday’s house fire be a reminder that fire happens and it is no respecter of addresses. There’s a lot of winter left, so take precautions to make your home fire-safe.

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