We know that winter is when most home fires occur. For one thing, it’s during the colder months that people are using supplemental heating sources, such as kerosene or electric heaters and wood stoves, and many fires are related to the use (or misuse) of such devices. But it’s not just the damage to (or the loss of) homes that’s a concern: it’s also the potential loss of life, as reported in this recent article.
While the winter months always bring a spike in home fires, the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) says home fire deaths reported on by the news media are above those reported at this time last year. According to media reports, home fires have already claimed 148 lives this month, 24 more than reported during Jan. 1-16, 2012.
Home fire incidence is collectively highest in the three winter months of January, February and March. Cooking and heating are the leading causes of these fires. The risk of fire also increases with the use of electric space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves. Older adults (50 deaths) and children (28 deaths) have accounted for more than half of home fire deaths reported by the news media in January.
Deaths were Preventable
Most of these tragedies remain under investigation but space heaters, candles and cooking are among the causes suspected in a number of these incidents. Whatever the cause of the fires, one thing is certain: all of these deaths were preventable. In addition, smoke alarms are an essential line of defense in the home, giving families valuable time to escape. About two-thirds of fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms, or in homes where residents removed the alarm’s batteries or where the batteries are dead. USFA’s “Install, Inspect, Protect” public education campaign urges residents to install smoke alarms in their homes and inspect and maintain them on a regular basis.
Monitored Smoke Alarms are Better
Unfortunately, the standard advice on smoke detectors overlooks an important fact: the standard smoke detector you buy in the hardware store, while important, is not monitored. That means if you are not home when the fire starts, or more importantly, if you are overcome by smoke and cannot remove yourself from the premise during a fire, then that effective (but limited) noisemaker is not going to help you. It takes a wireless smoke and heat sensor to get the job done, as part of a monitored alarm system.
And They Work…
A home alarm system might have saved a family from losing their home in a fire Tuesday night. Tuesday evening, the Reno Fire Department responded to an activated residential fire alarm on King Edward Drive in old northwest Reno. When Reno Fire Engine 8 arrived on scene, crews saw no indication of fire from the outside of the home. Continuing with their investigation, firefighters were able to see a haze through the window and smelled smoke. The Engine 8 crew pulled a fire-attack line, forced entry into the residence, and extinguished a fire in the kitchen while immediately conducted a search of the residence for any potential victims. The residence was unoccupied at the time of the fire and no injuries were reported. The home owner arrived shortly after the fire was extinguished.
Fire Department Speaks Out in Favor of Monitored Systems
“This incident underscores the value of residential alarm-systems,” advised Reno Fire Department Captain Paul Keckley. “Without the alarm system this fire could have burned for a considerable amount of time before it was detected and reported by neighbors. One neighbor said that he was just thinking that he might be smelling smoke when he heard the sirens and Engine 8 arrive on scene.”
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