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Our view: Stay safe while staying warm

Published: Monday, March 3, 2014 11:37 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 12:14 a.m. CDT

Another weekend of cold temperatures has led to fires in homes in DeKalb County. At one home, outside Earlville, two people were killed.

Although the cause of that blaze is not yet determined, home fire danger is highest during the winter months, and as it appears that there are some weeks of winter yet to go, it is worth noting that fire safety is critical for everyone to consider.

The U.S. Fire Administration said that winter fires cause more than $2 billion in property damage and kill more than 900 people each year. Two-thirds of those fires occur in single-family homes and duplexes, and most occur between 5 and 8 p.m. – when people generally are home and awake.

Below-zero temperatures have been so common this winter that space heaters have been working overtime, and at least one fire in DeKalb has been ignited by a space heater that was left on too close to flammable material.

“It’s been a longer winter than normal, and it’s been a lot colder so people have had to resort to other means of heating,” DeKalb Fire Chief Eric Hicks said. “In past winters we haven’t had long stretches of below zero temps and people have had to overwork their furnace.”

Home space heaters should be certified by Underwriters’ Laboratories and if possible, protect people – especially children – from direct contact with the heat element. It’s important not to use extension cords with space heaters and to not leave them running unattended, said DeKalb.

Furnaces should be kept in good working condition – cracked heat exchangers can allow odorless, colorless and deadly carbon monoxide into the home. If you use a wood stove or wood-burning fireplace to heat your house, make sure to have the chimney cleaned regularly, never leave them burning unattended, and properly dispose of ashes.

It’s also critical to have working carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in homes, along with an escape plan in case of emergency.

It looks as though there will be a chill in the air for weeks to come. It’s important to stay warm, but just as important to practice fire safety.

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