Colder temperatures are in our immediate forecast and the men and women of the Penn Twp. Fire Department wants  you to stay safe while staying warm.  We are joining the United States Fire Administration (USFA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to remind everyone that home fires are more prevalent in cold weather than in any other time of the year. This is due in part to an increase in cooking and heating fires. Holiday decorations and winter storms that can interrupt electrical service and cause people to turn to alternative heating sources also contribute to the increased risk of fire in winter.  This reminder involves the safe use of space heaters and general heating safety tips.

The USFA, NFPA and the PGFD want to remind everyone that fire safety and prevention are especially important during times of cold temperatures.  “Temperatures drop and fires increase,” said Penn Twp. Division Chief Brian Kazmierzak.  According to NFPA statistics space heaters account for about one third of the home heating fires yet more than 80 percent of the home heating fire deaths.

The Winter Residential Building Fires report released by USFA in 2010, reports an estimated 108,400 winter residential building fires occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated average of 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries, and $1.7 billion in property loss.

Cooking and heating are the top causes of fires during cold weather.  “The winter season brings the highest number of home fires than any other time of year,” said Division Chief Kazmierzak. “Each winter season, home fires increase in part due to cooking and heating fires. Fire safety and injury prevention must not be lost in an effort to stay warm. Stay warm and do so safely.”

The men and women, of the Penn Township Fire Department recommend the following safety tips for space heaters.

Electric Space Heaters

  • Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Check to make sure it has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over.
  • Heaters are not dryers or tables; don’t dry clothes or store objects on top of your heater.
  • Space heaters need space; keep combustibles at least three feet away from each heater.
  • Always unplug your electric space heater when not in use.
  • Turn off at night or whenever you sleep.

General Heating Tips

  • Furnaces, fireplaces and Chimneys should be cleaned and checked each year by an appropriate professional prior to using.
  • Only use seasoned wood in fireplaces and never use ignitable liquids to start a fire.
  • The 3-foot rule applies to furnaces and fireplaces.  No combustibles items within 3 feet of these heating appliances.
  • Dispose of fireplace ash into a metal container and store outdoors away from structures on a concrete surface.  Fireplace ash can ignite a fire days after they have been discarded.

Colder weather also increases the potential to carbon monoxide (CO) exposure.  To help prevent illness and possibly death from exposure to CO:

  • Have a certified technician inspect all heating related equipment, kitchen appliances and vent pipes.
  • Purchase and install a CO alarm that has a 10-year battery.

Finally, having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. Remember to practice a home escape plan, including 2 ways out of every room,  frequently with your family.

Residents of Penn Twp. can contact our Station 13 on McKinley at 255-2690 or Station 14 on Jackson Road at 255-5075 if they are in need of a working smoke detector.  A firefighter will install a working smoke alarm in your home; free of charge. For additional information from the USFA and NFPA on Winter Fire Safety; click here.  If you are a resident of another jurisdiction, please contact that jurisdiction directly to see if they offer a free smoke detector program.