MCFRS News Release
It's Cold Out - Are You Fire Safe?
Time to Check Home Heating Systems and Smoke Alarms
As colder temperatures embrace the Metro area, the men and women of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service offer some safety tips. The winter months of January and February are typically some the busiest times of the year for firefighters. Cooking, home heating systems, heating equipment and associated electrical systems, as well as combustibles too close to a heat source continue to be significant factor in structural fires in Montgomery County. Many of these fires can be prevented.
Shortly after 7:00 a.m. on Friday, January 19, 2007 units from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service responded to the report of a 'fire out' on the 8th floor of the Blair House apartments located at 8201 16th Street, Silver Spring. Firefighters found a fire out in a chair, some burnt clothing and a resident with burns on her arms and back. An 86 year old female was transported to the MedStar Burn Unit at the Washington Hospital Center, in D.C. with 1st and 2nd degree burns covering about 10% of her body. Her clothing caught on fire when her robe came in contact with the stove. Upon disrobing she placed the burning robe on a fire. She was able to extinguish the fire prior to the arrival to firefighters. Damage was minimal.
Cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the United States throughout the year. It is also the leading cause of fire related injuries. Three in every ten reported home fires start in the kitchen - more than any other place in the home.
However, during the winter months of December, January and February fires related to heating equipment becomes the number one cause of residential fires, this includes those associated with fireplaces, space heaters and furnaces.
Around 4:35 a.m. on Thursday, January 11, 2007 units from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service were dispatched for the report of a house fire at 8040 Brink Road, in Laytonsville. First arriving firefighters encountered heavy smoke and fire coming from the second floor and roof of a large single family house. Additional units were dispatched to assist, in addition to water tankers due to the lack of fire hydrants in the area.
Just before 4:30 a.m. several occupants were awakened by the sound of an activated smoke alarm and they exited the house safely and eventually called 911. He then attempted to fight the fire with an extinguisher and garden hose, without success, until the fire department arrived.
Approximately 60 firefighters, equivalent to 2-alarms, were utilized on the scene. A smoke alarm activated and alerted residents. Eleven (11) occupants of the house, two adults, six children and three adult guests, evacuated safely prior to the arrival of firefighters. The children ranged in age from 11 months to 17 years old. It took firefighters about 25 minutes to 'knock down' the bulk of the fire. Two firefighters received minor injuries and were treated and released from local hospitals.
Fire Investigators determined that the origin of the fire was around the fireplace on the first floor. From the wall around the fireplace, the fire traveled to the roof area. Damage is estimated to be $275,000. The Red Cross is assisting the family.
The following fire safety tips and information can help you maintain a fire safe home and business this winter
- Be sure your heater is in good working condition. Inspect exhaust parts for carbon build-up. Inspect electrical systems for overloads. Inspect walls and areas around heating systems for excess heat exposure and drying out.
- Never use fuel burning appliances without proper room venting. Burning fuel such as kerosene, coal or propane, for (example) produces deadly fumes. Follow manufacturer's instructions.
- Keep young children and pets safely away from space heaters - especially young children when they are wearing nightgowns or other loose clothing that can be easily ignited. Give space heaters space!
- Never leave cooking food unattended - it is the number one cause of residential fires. Be sure your heater is in good working condition. Inspect exhaust parts for carbon build-up. Inspect electrical systems for overloads. Inspect walls and areas around heating systems for excess heat exposure and drying out.
- Make sure you wear close-fitting clothing when cooking. Loose clothing catches fire.
- Put pans on back burners and turn all pot handles toward the back of the stove.
- Never leave a child unattended in the kitchen. Close supervision is essential, whether children are helping an adult cook or simply watching.
- Older adults may need assistance when cooking.
Other Related Tips
- Remember never discard hot ashes inside or near the home. Place them in a metal container outside and well away from the house.
- Have your furnace and chimney professionally inspected and cleaned. Chimney tar build-up can ignite your chimney, roof and the whole house.
- Space heaters need space. Keep materials that burn easily at least three feet away from each heater.
- Working smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home, especially near sleeping areas. Test alarms once a month and replace the batteries at least twice a year. Home fires and home fire-related deaths are more likely to occur during the cold-weather months.
- Plan and practice at least two fire escape routes from each room of your home and identify an outside meeting place. Have an escape plan.