The following item was printed in the Montgomery County Police Reporter on Tuesday, January 5, 2010. The item was filed by Jamie Nash. What follows is a statement from the Montgomery County, Harris County, and Fort Bend County Fire Marshal Offices:
Fire officials are concerned about heater safety as use of alternative heat sources spikes. Heating is a major cause of home fires, especially during periods of extreme cold weather as residents turn to alternative heat sources. Officials urge caution with home heaters as temperatures drop.
As temperatures plummet over the next few days, residents will have many concerns, such as taking care of the three P’s ( Pets, Plants & Pipes ). As Firefighters, we are concerned that there is another danger that is often overlooked, that is the risk of injury or death from home heating fires. It is estimated that there are approximately 64,000 home heating fires annually in the United States, resulting in nearly $1 Billion dollars in damage, 540 civilian deaths and 1400 injuries.
The high cost of home heating fuels and utilities has caused many Americans to search for alternative home heating sources such as wood burning stoves, space heaters, and fireplaces. Heating is one of the leading causes of residential fires. Over one-quarter of these fires result from improper maintenance of equipment, specifically the failure to clean the equipment.
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is another danger when using heating equipment fueled by fossil fuel. It occurs most often when equipment is not vented properly. CO deaths have been on the rise since 1999. On average there were 181 unintentional non-fire deaths from CO poisoning associated with consumer products per year from 2004-2006 compared to 123 from 1999-2001 (Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission). Carbon monoxide poisoning is most fatal to adults age 65 or older.
The number one safety recommendation is to first and foremost have working smoke detectors throughout the home, especially in all sleeping areas. Homes with gas appliances must also have a Carbon Monoxide Detector on each floor. Having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire.