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Illinois state fire marshal reminds residents of the importance of emergency preparedness

Home fires are more prevalent during winter season

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[February 19, 2013]  SPRINGFIELD -- The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal encourages residents to consider fire preparedness as a priority during the months of winter by following basic steps to keep families safe. The unfortunate reality is that winter is the leading time of year for home fires in the United States, with heating and cooking representing the two leading causes of home fires.

"We want to make sure we're doing all we can to minimize any possibility of a tragedy during this season," said Larry Matkaitis, state fire marshal. "Our goal is to educate the public on preventative measures that are simple and easy to follow, such as always having working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors."

In Illinois last winter more than 8,000 fires were reported between the months of December and February. An alarming number of 25,126 fires were reported between 2010 and 2012. In the most recent report from the National Fire Protection Agency, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 57,100 reported U.S. home structure fires, with 490 civilian deaths, 1,530 civilian injuries and $1.1 billion in direct property loss.

OSFM also emphasizes the importance of practicing the following steps in case of a fire and other emergencies:

  • Have a fire escape plan in place in case of a fire emergency and discuss it with family members. Include your pets in your escape plan. Practice the plan often.

  • Teach children important phone numbers such as 911 and other emergency and family members' phone numbers and addresses.

  • Have first-aid and emergency kits available. Teach kids where to find them and how to use them when necessary.

  • If a fire occurs at home, leave immediately, go to your meeting place, stay out and then call 911.

  • Make sure windows and doors can opened from the inside. Keep smoke alarms within 15 feet of every bedroom. Check smoke alarms monthly.

  • Have flashlights and other emergency supplies in places easy to find.

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  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period, turn off the stove.

  • Space heaters need space. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from space heaters.

  • Check electrical cords often, and replace cracked or damaged electrical or extension cords.

  • Never use your oven or stovetop to heat your home. They are not designed for this purpose and can be a fire hazard. In addition, carbon monoxide gas could kill people and pets.

  • As an alternative, select the new "flameless" candles that operate by battery.

  • Do not leave regular candles unattended, and do not place them near curtains or children's bedrooms

  • If you smoke, use only fire-safe cigarettes and smoke outside.

For more information about fire prevention, visit or

[Text from Office of the State Fire Marshal file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]

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