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Hot Topic: How to Prevent Home Fires

This week marks the beginning of the National Fire Protection Association’s Fire Prevention Week – which means that there’s no better time to safeguard your home.

Fire departments nationwide responded to nearly 400,000 home fires in 2006, but by practicing extra caution, preventing the leading causes of home fires – cooking, heating, electrical and smoking materials – is within your power.

First, here are some statistics you should know:

•    Cooking fires are the #1 cause of home fires and home-fire injuries.

•    The majority of home fires – 40% – start in the kitchen.

•    Unattended cooking is the leading factor contributing to ignition in home cooking fires, accounting for one-third of such fires. More than half of all cooking fire injuries occurred when people tried to fight the fire themselves.

•    Electric ranges and stoves have a higher risk of fires, deaths, injuries and property damage, compared to gas ranges and stoves.

•    Lamps, light fixtures and light bulbs accounted for the largest share of 2002-2005 non-confined fires among major types of electrical distribution equipment, while cords and plugs accounted for the largest share of civilian fire deaths.

•    Cords and plugs were involved in one-eighth (12%) of the 2002-2005 home electrical distribution and lighting equipment fires, but roughly two-fifths (39%) of associated civilian deaths.

•    Smoking materials (i.e., cigarettes, cigars, pipes, etc.) are the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States. Roughly one of every four fire deaths per year from 2002-2005 was attributed to smoking materials. There were an estimated 82,400 smoking-material fires per year in the United States. These fires caused 800 civilian deaths and 1,660 civilian injuries.

•    During 2005, an estimated 15,600 home structure fires started by candles were reported to local fire departments. These fires resulted in an estimated 150 civilian deaths, 1,270 civilian injuries and an estimated direct property loss of $539 million. Homes include dwellings, duplexes, manufactured housing and apartments.

•    The top five days for home candle fires were Christmas, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and Halloween.

Now that you have the facts, how do you actively put fire-prevention practices into motion?  Follow this handy guide:

•    Make sure electrical cords are in good condition.

•    Plug appliances and lights into separate electrical outlets. Never overload outlets with too many cords.

•    Test batteries in smoke detectors and replace when needed.

•    Clear escape routes of clutter to ensure easy access.

•    Remove curtains and other flammable items from the vicinity of stovetops.

•    Turn off portable space heaters when not in use, and always place them at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn.

•    Clean vent and filters around your house, especially in the clothes dryer.

•    Use extension cords safely – not under carpets or across walking areas.

•    Have furnaces and chimneys inspected every year.

For more information on Fire Prevention Week and how you can prevent devastating fires, visit www.nfpa.org.

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