fire marshal warns of fires during winter months
blame on faulty heating systems
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[December 06, 2008]
SPRINGFIELD -- As people
throughout the state turn up the heat in their homes to fight the
cold winter air, the state fire marshal is urging Illinoisans to
keep fire safety in mind. Last year in Illinois, heating equipment
caused 615 residential fires, resulting in 31 injuries and nearly $6
million in property damage.
"While the holiday season is a favorite time of year for many
people, it's also the time when we see an increased number of home
fires that could have been prevented with a little caution," said
State Fire Marshal David B. Foreman. "We don't want anyone's holiday
celebrations to be ruined by a tragic fire. Just a few simple steps
can ensure safety and save lives."
According to the most recent statistics
available from the National Fire Protection Association, heating
equipment was involved in an estimated 62,200 home structure fires
in 2005 in the U.S., resulting in 670 deaths, 1,550 injuries and
$909 million in direct property damage.
Holiday decorations create additional fire hazards during
December. In 2007, there were 40 fires caused by holiday decorations
statewide, resulting in more than $650,000 in damage. Nearly twice
as many candle fires generally occur during December than any other
month of the year, with Christmas the peak day for candle fires.
To ensure you and your family have a safe winter, the state fire
marshal offers the following tips:
Many space heater-related fires are caused by combustibles placed
too close to the heater. Always keep a 36-inch clearance between
space heaters and anything that can burn.
Portable space heaters should be turned off every time you leave
the room or go to bed.
When buying a new space heater, make sure it carries the mark of
an independent testing laboratory.
When using kerosene heaters, be sure the room is well-ventilated.
Creosote buildup is a major contributor to chimney fires. Have
your chimney inspected each year and cleaned if necessary.
Wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, chimney connectors,
and all other solid-fueled heating equipment should be inspected
annually by a professional and cleaned as often as instructions
Fireplaces should have a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from
flying into the room.
Allow ashes from fireplaces and wood stoves to cool before
disposing of the residue in a metal container.
- Furnaces also should be checked every year by professionals to
ensure mechanical parts are functioning properly and that nothing is
blocking the flue. Malfunctioning furnaces increase both fire and
carbon monoxide risks.
When buying a live Christmas tree, select a freshly cut tree or
one that hasn't been on the sales lot for very long.
Position the live tree at least three feet away from any heat
Refill water in the tree stand regularly. Live Christmas trees
dry out quickly once they're brought into a home, and a dry
Christmas tree can quickly go up in flames if proper caution isn't
Never use candles to decorate a tree, and keep all candles away
from the tree.
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Place candles on stable furniture and in sturdy holders that will
catch dripping wax.
Never leave a candle unattended.
If the power goes out, use flashlights for illumination, not
Keep candles away from all things that can catch fire.
Place candles on higher furniture, where they won't be knocked
over by children or pets.
Never place lit candles in windows, where they could ignite
blinds or curtains.
Don't allow children or teens to have candles in their bedrooms.
Extinguish candles carefully, using a long-handled candle snuffer
or a soft, directed blow. Be careful not to splatter wax when
Use an alternative to candles. Manufacturers make
realistic-looking, battery-powered candles available now that have
no flame and do not produce soot. These can be a cost-effective and
safer alternative to real candles.
Lighting and decorations
Use caution with holiday decorations, and whenever possible,
choose those made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant or
Purchase only lights and electrical decorations bearing the name
of an independent testing lab, and follow the manufacturer's
instructions for installation and maintenance.
Do not overload extension cords.
Check your strands of lights to determine the number of strands
that may be connected.
Don't mount lights in any way that can damage the cord's wire
insulation. For example, use clips, not nails.
Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving the
house or going to bed.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Every home should
have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, which should
be tested monthly to ensure they're functioning and the
batteries are still good.
Illinois state law
requires that carbon monoxide detectors be installed within 15
feet of each sleeping area in homes and apartments. This
requirement is similar to one already in effect for smoke
Never use your
oven to heat your home.
Never use a gas or charcoal grill
inside your home or attached garage.
For more information about fire safety, visit
Office of the State Fire
Marshal file received from
Illinois Office of
Communication and Information]