Sara's Column: Colder temps lead to more house fires

One pattern that stands out for me is that as soon as the temperatures start to drop and the days get shorter, I tend to report a lot more house fires.
Oct 31, 2013

During my time working in newspapers, I’ve learned to pay attention to trends.

Not necessarily the latest hot fashion or phrase, although those too, but trends as in patterns.

One pattern that stands out for me is that as soon as the temperatures start to drop and the days get shorter, I tend to report a lot more house fires.

I noticed we’re already starting to get a few this year.

I’ve spoken with emergency responders about the correlation before, and it makes perfect sense when you stop to think about it.

When it gets cold outside and your central heat doesn’t necessarily work so well or you don’t have central heat, you find other ways to warm up. You set up a space heater or light a fire in the fireplace, or maybe you use propane heat.

So that space heater may draw too much electricity off the available power outlet or catch fire to a curtain that’s a little too close to it; the log in the fireplace could pop off a spark and catch fire to the nearby carpeting or soot buildup in the chimney ignite; that propane system may not have been properly installed, causing ignition with a random electrical spark.

Although these may seem like some sorts of Final Destination scenarios, my point is not to say, “You shouldn’t use space heaters or set a fire in the fireplace or use propane heat.”

Accidents do happen no matter what you’re doing, but if you know of the dangers ahead of time, you can often mitigate the risks and repercussions.

If the worst happens and your home does catch fire, smoke detectors can exponentially improve your chances of escaping the fire.

I’ve had too many professionals advise me of this, and I’ve heard too much anecdotal evidence to believe otherwise.

That doesn’t mean that I’ve always been the greatest at remembering to keep fresh, functioning batteries in my smoke detector. I’ll admit, when that shrill low-battery beeping starts at 3 a.m. and there’s not a single 9-volt battery in the house, I don’t even hesitate to pop that thing off the wall; I just want that noise to stop and quickly.

My problem is when I forget that the smoke detector is up there empty. Most of our detectors are placed at least 9 feet up the wall, and I get stuck in the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” mentality.

I’ve realized that I’m apparently not the only one with this problem, though, because emergency response organizations, insurance companies and other stakeholders have in recent years begun a handy campaign to help address just this problem.

They’ve cleverly linked it up with daylight savings time by suggesting people go ahead and change out their smoke detector batteries when they’re resetting the clocks throughout the home.

After all, clocks change every few months; this year they jumped forward March 10 and will fall back one hour Nov. 3. Oh, wait…That’s this upcoming Sunday.

Hint, hint…


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