Tips for preventing house fires this winter

(WTNH) – During the winter firefighters typically respond to more house fires than any other time of the year. About 900 people die in house fires in the wintertime each year nationwide. Cooking is the number one cause of fires at this time of year.

“Oils do heat up pretty quickly on the stove,” said Deputy Chief Scott Schwartz of the West Haven Fire Department. “Once they do boil over you will get a fire from that.”

Heating is the second leading cause of winter fires. Space heaters are still to blame for many of them, though firefighters aren’t seeing that as often.

Tom Swan owns Hearth Haven in Branford. He talks to his customers about fire safety.

“You want to make sure everything’s done to code,” said Swan. “You want to make sure that you’re using proper venting for a wood stove or pellet stove.”

One of the most important things you can do when using a fire place is to keep a screen around it to stop sparks from going into the room. If there is a fire in the chimney you can use sulfur sticks to put it out before it can spread.

“It’ll just snuff out the fire in the chimney and it can save the house from burning down,” said Swan.

If you have a stove or a fireplace have a professional clean and inspect it every year. Keep kids and anything that can burn at least three feet away from it. Though it is important to be careful, the newer ones have safety features.

“Pellet stoves are very controlled. They’re very mechanical so they have a lot of shutoffs,” said Swan.

Those aren’t the only things that can cause fires at this time of year. Firefighters say Christmas lights can also start a blaze, especially when they are indoors.

“[People are] running extension cords underneath the rugs. That’ll heat up underneath the rug and actually start a fire,” said Schwartz.

One of the most important ways you can protect yourself is with a smoke detector. Have one in every bedroom, plus a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home.