North Carolina insurance commissioner urges extra caution to prevent home fires
Published 9:34 am Saturday, December 31, 2022
As the calendar turns to 2023, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey is urging residents to be extra cautious during end of year celebrations to decrease the risk of home fires. Recent colder temperatures across North Carolina, combined with extra risks from space heaters, holiday cooking and celebratory fireworks can increase the potential for home fires this time of year exponentially.
The number of fatalities from fires in North Carolina in has reached 147 to date. There were 134 fire deaths in 2021.
“As we continue to celebrate the holidays, it’s important to be extra vigilant of our surroundings since winter is the most dangerous time of the year for fires,” said Causey, who is also the state fire marshal. “The goal in this office remains to educate families and to raise awareness about the dangers space heaters present, and to take extra care while using the oven, stove or portable cookers.”
The leading factor of home heating fire deaths this year was identified as heating equipment that was placed too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding. Home fires also peak on major U.S. holidays that traditionally involve cooking.
“Working smoke alarms are essential to keeping your family safe from fire,” Causey added. “In the event your home catches fire, immediately exit the structure and never return into a burning home to retrieve a pet or a belonging. We’ve had several incidents of re-entry which led to fatalities recently. It’s also important that your family identify two ways to escape your home and to have a safe meeting place outside.”
Fireworks are also used widely during celebrations on New Year’s Eve. Causey urges those choosing to celebrate with fireworks to always use them on a hard surface away from bushes and homes, to never use them while consuming alcohol and to never let children use fireworks such as sparklers unattended.
The North Carolina Department of Insurance, Office of State Fire Marshal and Safe Kids NC recommend the following NFPA safety tips to prevent fire, injury or poisonings:
- Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment.
- Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
- Never use your oven to heat your home.
- Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
- Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel-burning space heaters.
- Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container, placed on a non-combustible area and stored a safe distance away from your home.
- Test smoke alarms at least once a month
- Always stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling or broiling food. If you need to leave the kitchen, turn off the stove.
- Keep flammable items such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels and curtains away from the cooking area.
- Establish a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and other areas where hot food or drink is being prepared or carried.
- Be alert when cooking. If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t cook.
- If your stove catches on fire, when in doubt, just get out! Call 911 from outside the home.
To learn more about fire and holiday safety, visit the OSFM website.