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Howard fire officials share safety tips after spike in heat-related fires

Howard County firefighters have battled five fires in the past four weeks and are urging residents to take extra precautions this winter, a season when the number of home fires spike due to heating systems.

Fire officials said that since Nov. 29, they have responded to four residential fires and one motel fire, which the Office of the Fire Marshal is currently investigating to determine origins and causes. Working smoke alarms alerted the fire department of each fire and no injuries were reported in any case.

Heating is the second leading cause of home fires, deaths and injuries nationwide, according to the National Fire Protection Association. December through February are peak months for heating-related fires. As of March 2016, the association reported that two out of every five fires were caused by heating equipment, such as space heaters; those fires account for 84 percent of deaths.

Christmas tree and decoration-related fires also increase in December and January. Between 2011 and 2015, data shows, 26 percent of Christmas tree fires were caused by candles or other heat sources that were too close to trees; $14.8 million in property damage resulted from these fires. Candles were the leading cause of decoration fires, causing $11.4 million in property damage.

To prevent home fires, officials said residents should turn off space heaters before going to sleep, keeping them at least three feet away from combustibles. Residents should also not overload extension cords.

To help prevent fires, homeowners should install and test smoke alarms every month, practice home exit drills and keep bedroom doors closed to prevent fires from spreading. If a fire occurs, fire officials said remember to first get out of the house and don’t go back inside, but call 911.

For more information on the Howard County fire department, go to www.hcdfrs.org or its Facebook and Twitter pages. Fire safety tips are also available at www.nfpa.org.

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