December, January and February are the leading months for U.S. home fires and home fire deaths. On average, more than 1/3 of home fire deaths in the United States occur during the winter months.
Safer Home Heating
NFPA's latest report on U.S. home heating fire patterns indicates that heating equipment fires are the second leading causes of fire deaths in American homes and the biggest fire culprit December through January. An estimated 73,800 home heating fires in 1994 killed 487 people and injured just under 2,000 people. The experts at NFPA say that most U.S. home fires caused by heating equipment could be prevented by taking simple safety precautions. "The home heating fire problem in America is largely one of human error, particularly with the misuse of portable heaters, fireplaces and woodstoves," says NFPA's assistant vice president for public education, Meri-K Appy. "The critical elements of home heating safety have to do with correct installation, maintenance, fueling and operation of portable and space heaters, as well as safely arranging household items around them." According to NFPA's report, the major causes of U.S. home heating fires are:
- Lack of regular cleaning of chimneys in fireplaces and woodstoves
- Placing things that can burn too close to space and portable heaters
- Flaws in design, installation or use
- Fueling errors involving liquid- or gas-fueled heaters
- Leaving portable or space heaters unattended