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Our View: Be proactive and smart to keep your home safe from winter fires

While temperatures haven’t been particularly frigid some two weeks into winter, it’s important to remember what a dangerous time of year it is in terms of home fires — with fireplaces, woodstoves and portable heating units, not to mention candles in Christmas trees, being in high use among the main reasons for that. In fact, major fires in Westminster and Mount Airy on Christmas and another in Union Mills on Sunday night left residents displaced.

A malfunctioning wood-burning stove caused a single-family home in the 4500 block of Wilders Run Road in Westminster to catch fire on Christmas Day. Twenty Manchester Volunteer Fire Company firefighters extinguished the blaze, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal. There were no injuries and the the fire marshal determined the cause accidental — the woodstove was being used beforehand, then the fire started in the chimney flue chase and spread to part of the attic.

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Also on Christmas Day, A Christmas Day a house fire in Mount Airy left six people displaced and one firefighter injured. A total of 75 firefighters responded to the house fire in the 6000 block of Woodville Road, according to a spokesperson with Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Services.It took firefighters more than an hour to put the fire out. No occupants were injured. A firefighter was injured by a collapsing ceiling, then was taken to a hospital and later released.

And late Sunday, more than 50 firefighters from two counties converged on a an older, wooden-frame, two-and-a-half story home that caught fire in the 3300 block of Littlestown Pike. According to Charlie Simpson, public information officer for Pleasant Valley Community Fire Company, firefighters representing 10 different companies in Carroll County and Adams County, Pennsylvania, sent volunteers. The fire marshal estimated the value of the loss at $50,000, plus $25,000 worth of contents.

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According to the U.S. Fire Administration, winter home fires account for only 8% of the total number of fires in the U.S., but result in 30% of all fire deaths. In fact, 890 people die and $2 billion in property loss occurs each year from winter home fires.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating is the second-leading cause of U.S. home fires, deaths and injuries with December, January and February being the peak months for heating fires. Space heaters are involved in two out of every five home heating equipment fires. The NFPA also cited downed power lines during storms, portable generators and candles as being factors contributing to fires at this time of year.

Heating equipment is involved in 1 in every 7 home fires and 1 in every 5 home fire deaths. The NFPA warns to keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet from any heat source like fireplaces, wood stoves, radiators or space heaters and to keep portable generators outside, away from windows, and as far away from your home as possible. Also, plug only only heat-producing appliance (like a space heater) into an electrical outlet at a time, have a qualified professional clean and inspect your chimney and vents every year, and store cooled ashes in a tightly covered metal container at least 10 feet from any home.

For those who haven’t yet taken down Christmas trees — most of us — a heat source too close to the Christmas tree causes 1 in every 4 winter fires. These are particularly dangerous fires — one out of every 52 results in death. The NFPA warns to keep trees at least 3 feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, candles or heat vents. Additionally, more than one-third of all home decoration fires are started by candles.

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It’s a great time of year, but also potentially dangerous. Be proactive, be smart and be safe.

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