Fires Increase in Cold Weather

FiresDisasters and AccidentsMontgomery (Montgomery, Alabama)Jimmy Williams

Cold weather is the culprit in a rash of overnight fires according to the Montgomery County Fire Marshal.

"The stairs where you go up to go into the attic, I could see red all around and I pulled it down and it was on fire… the whole thing," said Doris Thomas, whose home eight miles west of Conroe was destroyed early Friday morning.

Firefighters hear the same story over and over when it's cold.

"We see people seeking alternative heating sources; the use of space heaters, you know, stoking large fires in fireplaces. It tends to be a problem when we have these cold spots," said Montgomery County Fire Marshal Jimmy Williams.

There were five fires in Montgomery County overnight alone. Three of them happened within 10 minutes early Friday.

"At least two are chimney fires. This one here we believe is involved in a central heating unit," said Williams, standing outside the Thomas home. "We have at least two others we're investigating where we have fires in rooms, we don't know if it was a space heater yet that started those fires."

Williams said when it's this cold people need to be extra careful how they get their heat.

'If you're using space heaters, make sure that you have it a minimum of three feet clear all the way around of anything that will burn. Don't stoke up your fireplace and go to bed," said Williams.

Smoke detectors are also key in saving lives once a fire does break out.

"Smoke detectors saved our lives," said Travis Thomas, Doris' husband. "Especially our niece's life that was in the bedroom, she was right underneath where it was burning."

"Have those detectors. Check them. Make sure they're working tonight before you go to bed," said Williams.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 96 percent of homes have smoke alarms. However, in nearly half of all fires those alarms don't work. The solution is often as simple as making sure the battery is working.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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