After three people were killed in residential fires in two days recently — plus another Sunday that resulted in no injuries — state fire officials are urging residents to use caution this winter.
“In the winter, our call volume increases and we see an uptick in both fire-related calls and fire-related deaths,” Deputy State Fire Marshal Oliver Alkire said.
Kyle Jones, 26, was killed in a Jan. 10 fire in Whiteford, according to his mother, Mary. The Jones’ family home was destroyed during the early morning fire, the cause of which has not been determined, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal.
The fire also destroyed the home of another family of four, whose camper was connected to the Jones mobile home. Seven people were displaced by the fire.
Six people statewide have died in fires so far in 2019, according to the state fire marshal.
On Sunday, fireplace ashes disposed of improperly caused a fire at a home in the 2300 block of Northcliff Drive in Jarrettsville, state fire investigators said. It took 20 firefighters from Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company about 20 minutes to control the fire. No one was injured.
Smoke alarms activated in the home, which suffered $5,000 in structural damage and $5,000 damage to its contents, according to the notice.
The fire was reported at about 11:45 a.m. by the owner, Yuriy P. Petruk, who discovered the blaze in his garage, according to a notice of investigation from the fire marshal’s office.
Fire ashes should always be placed in a metal bucket with a lit and as far away from a house as possible, Alkire said.
“Place them a minimum of 10 feet,” Alkire said. “Not inside the home, not against the home.”
The lid on the bucket keeps the ashes in.
“It smothers them,” he said, “because inevitably as soon as they’re outside, the wind blows and the embers from the ashes blow against the house.”
Other things to keep in mind are making sure to have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, keeping exits clear of obstruction, and maintaining fire alarms and fire sprinkler systems, Alkire said.
“Check the exits in both your home and any place you go to ensure you are able to get out safely,” he said.
Blocked exits resulting from improperly placed chairs, tables or even holiday decorations can result in the delay of getting out quickly and safely.
It’s also important to have an escape plan that everyone in the home is aware of, Alkire said.
Portable heaters are safe to use, as long as manufacturer’s recommendations are followed, but he cautioned to never put gasoline in a kerosene heater.
Electric space heaters should always be plugged directly into an outlet, never into a power strip or extension cord “because they can easily become overheated,” Alkire said. “People are surprised at how much power they can pull.”