Winter brings the heat with increase of fires; how to safely stay warm

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MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. – The winter brings more house fires than any other time of the year. Statistically, heaters cause 1 in every 6 house fires and 1 in every 5 home fire deaths.

“We receive more home fires in the winter than any other season,” Lieutenant Matt Coppin with the Metro West Fire Protection District said.

Space heaters cause a high risk when used improperly.

“They are meant to be just kind of a temporary, secondary source of heat while you are sitting at your chair reading a book at night or watching television, but they are meant to be shut off at night,” Coppin explained.

Warming up can be done safely.

All units should be plugged into the wall, not extension chords. Keep the heater three feet from everything, including walls, curtains, furniture, and bedding.

Always supervise the unit which means turning it off when sleeping.

The threat not only lies inside with space heaters but also outside.

Many are bearing the cold in 2020 with bonfires and heated tents providing an added risk.

“I think a lot of people would be surprised to learn that the ashes from your fire pit can stay internally hot for up to five days,” Coppin said. “So a lot of people will have a fire and the next morning they will come they’ll see that the coals are cool, they might even be cool to the touch, but they still have heat inside.”

Placing day-old coals into a trash can may be fuel for a fire so it may be best to wait five days before throwing out the coals. When you dispose of coals, use a metal bin or soak them in water.

For those pitching a tent, know the risks.

Using propane in an enclosed tent can be a silent killer.

“You are burning propane and the bi-product of that is going to be the carbon monoxide. You want to make sure you are in a ventilated area where you are going to have a lot of air exchange.” Coppin said. “So I wouldn’t recommend taking a pop-up tent and placing a propane heater under there or even a camping tent.”

Fortunately, the fire department has not yet responded to any tent related fires this season.

Local restaurants work with fire agencies and county officials to make sure they are meeting codes to ensure customers’ safety.

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