Fire Safety in the Home: 3 Cold Weather Firestarters

Open flame of a candle.Winter is a time of togetherness, but it’s not always voluntary. The brutal cold and rugged weather keeps individuals indoors as much as the spate of holidays. As we spend more time indoors against the cold, we perform more activities indoors. Ordinarily safe activities can become dangerous as repetition causes laxness, and not just to the individual involved. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are over 360,000 homes each year damaged by fire. Below you’ll find three of common causes of home fires, and at least one of them will probably surprise you.

Cause 1: Candles

Between 2007 and 2011, there was an average of 29 candle fires per day, according to data collected by the NFPA. About a third of these fires started in the bedroom, with candles left to close to flammable items (as are 50% of all candle fires). With their association with celebrations and the cold, candle fires are most likely to crop up during the holiday months of December and January. A few tips to avoid turning your mood-setting light into a fire-setting hazard:

  • Keep candles 12 inches away from any flammable.
  • If a room is unoccupied (or you’re going to sleep), don’t leave the candles burning.
  • Use tall candles well secured in candleholders on tables and other high-traffic areas.

Cause 2: Cigarettes

Smoking rates are going down across the United States, and smoking-related fires with them, helped along with new regulations for non-flammable mattresses and clothing such as nightwear. However, NFPA findings still show an average of 17,600 fires per year, causing 490 deaths and more than $500 million in property damage. While smoking has fallen out of favor with the young, old smokers are now more at risk (half of these victims were age 65 or older). A few tips to avoid smoking-related fires:

  • While the cold will make it tempting to do otherwise, smoke outdoors.
  • Don’t smoke when tired or in bed: these circumstances cause the most smoking fires.
  • Use wide, heavy ashtrays and avoid placing them next areas that could trap falling cigarette butts.

Cause 3: Dryers

While it sounds like a strange start to a home fire, dryer fires cause almost as many home fires per year as cigarettes at 16,800 (NFPA study in 2010). There are two major reasons behind these fires – and the risk is roughly the same for both gas and electric-powered dryers: dryer dust and lint coming in contact with the heating elements, and clothing that wasn’t designed to be run through a dryer. A few tips for keeping your dryer safe:

  • Clean the lint screen with every use, and never run the dryer without it in place.
  • Clean the exhaust vent at yearly and make sure nothing blocks it from outside (such as snow).
  • Keep the areas surrounding the dryer free of flammable materials.

While winter makes us indoor creatures with a renewed appreciation for heat and fire, it’s important to be respectful of these fire hazards and to keep them away from potential fuel sources: good advice to follow any time of the year. If you’d like to learn more about home safety as well as home insurance, take a look at TJ Woods Insurance. Our customers come first, and we will always help you make the wisest choices to accommodate your insurance situation.