While winter brings traditional holiday festivities such as Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the season’s cold weather also poses enhanced fire-related risks to Tennessee homeowners.
During winter, fire deaths increase by almost 75 percent across the Volunteer State, according to state fire data. Heating equipment is the leading cause of home fire deaths nationally and the second leading known cause in Tennessee.
Ahead of the first day of winter (Dec. 21) and Christmas (Dec. 25), the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) and the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) remind Tennesseans to focus on fire safety in order to help reduce home fires and save lives this winter.
“Homeowners can stay warm and safe by remembering a few simple fire safety steps ahead of winter’s arrival,” said TDCI Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Carter Lawrence. “By focusing on fire safety, Tennesseans can reduce the risk to themselves and firefighters, emergency responders and hospital personnel who are on the front line in our fight against the spread of COVID-19.”
Christmas trees are among the cornerstones of the holiday season, but a dry Christmas tree can pose a fire safety threat to homeowners. To demonstrate the fire safety hazards of a dry Christmas tree, the SFMO recently partnered with Brentwood Fire & Rescue to stage a fire safety demonstration involving a fire that began with a dry Christmas tree. A video of the Christmas tree burn demonstration can be found here. Photos can be found here.
“Christmas trees can be among the deadliest of household fire hazards when they are not properly maintained or when they are kept near heat sources,” said Brentwood Fire & Rescue Chief Brian Goss. “Always make sure to keep your Christmas tree watered and away from home heating equipment.”
A homeowner’s first line of defense against home fires in any season is a working smoke alarm. To help protect Tennesseans and save lives, the SFMO’s “Get Alarmed, Tennessee!” smoke alarm program continues to be a critical resource in helping Tennesseans reduce risk to home fires. Alarms installed through the “Get Alarmed” program now have 314 verified saves since the program began in 2012 and 27 verified saves in 2020. Over 21,000 working smoke alarms were distributed through this program to the SFMO’s fire service partners in 2020.
“As a former firefighter, I know the difference that a working smoke alarm can make when it comes to a home fire,” said TDCI Assistant Commissioner for Fire Gary Farley. “The success of the ‘Get Alarmed’ program is due, in part, to local fire service partners. I want to thank them for their dedication to their communities and to helping save lives.”
To help raise awareness of fire safety, the SFMO launched a public service campaign with country music artist Tracy Lawrence who starred in a series of public service announcements (PSA) including a heating safety PSA.
Ahead of winter, Tennesseans can reduce their risk of home fires this winter by following these consumer tips:
- Keep flammable items like blankets or furniture at least three feet away from space heaters and wood stoves.Never place your Christmas tree near heating equipment, fireplaces, candles or other sources of heat. Always keep your Christmas tree watered to prevent it from drying out.
- Practice a home fire escape plan with your family. Everyone should know two ways out of each room.
- Never smoke in a home where medical oxygen is present. The increased presence of oxygen in the air makes fire burn hotter and faster.
- Always turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
- Never use your oven to heat your home.
- Have heating equipment and chimneys inspected every year.
- Burn only dry, seasoned wood in fireplaces and wood stoves. Never burn garbage or use flammable liquids to start a fire.
- Make sure any fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying out.
- Install wood burning stoves following manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional do the installation. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- If you smell gas coming from your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.