SPRINGFIELD – As people throughout Illinois turn up the heat in their homes to fight the cold winter air and begin decorating their homes for the holidays, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich is reminding everyone to stay safe by keeping fire safety in mind.
“While the holiday season is a favorite time of year for so many, it’s also the time when we see many home fires that could have been prevented with a little caution,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “We want people to know the simple – but important – steps that can keep them safe throughout the winter and holiday season.”
The Office of the State Fire Marshal’s (OSFM) effort to increase awareness about home heating and holiday fire safety dangers is part of Gov. Blagojevich’s Keep Warm Illinois
campaign, a comprehensive effort to inform and prepare Illinois residents for winter with information on energy assistance, home weatherization and winter safety tips. For more information, visit www.keepwarm.illinois.gov
or call (877) 411-WARM.
“The State Fire Marshal’s Office is pleased to once again join with Governor’s Blagojevich’s Keep Warm Illinois campaign to help people stay safe and warm this winter,” said State Fire Marshal Dave Foreman. “We don’t want anyone’s holiday celebrations to be ruined by a tragic fire. And even after the holiday season is over, people still need to play it safe when heating their homes."
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment was involved in an estimated 45,000 structure fires in 2002 in the U.S., resulting in 220 deaths, 990 injuries and $449 million in direct property damage. Portable and fixed space heaters, including wood stoves, were involved in 25 percent of the home heating fires but caused 74 percent of the deaths.
Holiday decorations create additional fire hazards during December. In 2002, the NFPA reports there were 240 Christmas tree home fires nationwide, resulting in 23 deaths, 12 injuries and $11.4 million in property 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.
- 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.
- Have fixed space heaters, such as wood-burning stoves, installed by a qualified technician, according to manufacturer’s instructions or applicable codes. If your home already has a fixed space heater, have a qualified technician check to see that the unit has been properly installed.
- Fireplaces and chimneys cause more than 40 percent of fires, most due to creosote build-up.
- 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 inspections suggest.
- Use properly seasoned wood in fireplaces or wood stoves. Green wood has more moisture and is likely to smolder, leading to more creosote build-up. A moisture content of 20 to 25 percent is recommended, as wood that is too well-seasoned may also result in creosote build-up.
- Fireplaces should have a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room.
- Allow fireplace and woodstove ashes to cool before disposing 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. Such inspections will help keep energy costs down as well as ensure the safety of the home’s occupants. Malfunctioning furnaces increase both fire and carbon monoxide risks.
- 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 observed.
- 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 source.
- Refill water in the tree stand regularly.
- Never use candles to decorate a tree, and keep all candles away from the tree.
- Place candles on stable furniture, in sturdy holders that will catch dripping wax.
- Never leave a candle unattended.
- If the power goes out, use flashlights for illumination, not candles.
- 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 candled snuffer or a soft, directed blow. Be careful not to splatter wax when extinguishing.
Lighting and decorations
- Use caution with holiday decorations and whenever possible, choose those made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant or non-combustible materials.
- 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.
- As of Jan. 1, 2007, a new state law will require 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 detectors.
- Never use your oven to heat your home.
- Never use a gas or charcoal grill inside your home or attached garage.
The Keep Warm Illinois
) offers various no-cost and low-cost energy saving tips, a web-based tool to conduct a home energy audit, links to energy assistance programs and other resources. In addition, the Keep Warm Illinois
hotline (1-877-411-WARM) is another resource for Illinois residents to learn how to save energy and get energy assistance.