Can cold weather cause fires?

Can Cold Weather Cause Fires?

With the brutal winter upon us, you may be wondering, “Can Cold Weather Cause Fires?” The short answer is that no, cold weather can’t cause fires by itself. However, the cold weather does present several situations in which fires happen more frequently. In the United States, home fires take a human life about every three hours.

There are many ways to protect ourselves from fires in any weather. Regardless of the time of year, paying attention to your home’s fire safety equipment is integral to protecting your family from home fires.

If Weather Doesn’t Cause Fires, What Does?

Winter weather is not a direct cause of increased house fires. But our winter habits do increase the risk. Although many things contribute to the increased risk, we broke down a few of the most common ones for you.

Space Heaters

Space heaters can be electric, kerosene, or propane. They create heat in a small area, but incorrect use can pose fire risks.

There are several different types of Electric Space Heaters, including:

  • Ceramic and Fan-Style
  • Infrared
  • Oil-Filled
  • Panel-Style

Electric heaters are the most common. They are available for purchase at many home stores, discount outlets, and even grocery stores. They provide extra heat in a small area, but they can also cause home fires due to overloaded outlets, improper use, or a faulty heater. Covering an electric heater with a blanket or trying to dry or warm clothing can start a fire also.

Infrared is the most energy-efficient, providing heat without adding much to your energy bill.

Heavy-Duty Propane Space Heaters are a mainstay on construction sites and mechanics’ garages. Operated in an area where ventilation is adequate, these can be a very effective heat source. The use of an open flame poses specific problems inside a home, though.

There are propane heaters for home use, but these still require ventilation. A small portable propane heater should never be left unattended and should not be left running while sleeping.

Kerosene Space Heaters are, fortunately, not widely in use anymore but are still available. These should ONLY be operated in very well-ventilated spaces.

Chimney Fires

Many people have fireplaces they use in the winter to supplement the heating system in their homes. Fireplaces provide a great atmosphere and additional heat and can be very relaxing on a cold winter night. They also require yearly maintenance. Not having your chimney inspected and cleaned at least yearly can lead to house fires.

Chimneys collect creosote, which is highly flammable and accumulates on chimney walls. It is a by-product of unburned wood, smoke, and vapor. You can reduce creosote build-up by burning well-seasoned hardwoods with at least six months of drying time. Check moisture content using a moisture meter. Make sure that the damper is open, creating better airflow.

When a chimney fire starts, it can transfer from the chimney to the attic space and engulf a home in a very short time. Although it may be an added expense to have your chimney cleaned annually, when compared to the cost of a house fire it is a small price.

Overloaded Electrical Outlets

Whether you have a new house or old, overloading electrical outlets happens frequently. Devices sold in the dollar store transform an outlet with two sockets into a six-socket outlet. You can buy a short pigtail device that plugs into one receptacle and allows you to plug into three devices. Doubling and tripling the number of items we can plug in does not increase the available power at the outlet.

Kitchen counters are overload areas in almost every home. We plug in toasters, air fryers, microwaves, blenders, and the holy grail coffee pot. All of these items draw power when operated. Having multiple plugs in one two-socket outlet may seem like a great idea since we don’t normally use everything at one time. But what happens if you don’t realize the microwave is on and you turn on the air fryer?

To prevent overload, limit what you plug in at each outlet. Know the rated amperage of your household outlets and the draw from each item you are plugging in. Pay attention to your circuit breakers. If a breaker trips, don’t just reset it. Move items into different power sources. If you smell fish frying and know you’re not cooking fish — leave the house and contact the fire department immediately. 

Thirsty Holiday Trees

Another culprit of overloaded circuits is our holiday trees. We do love our lights. Stringing 15 different strands of lights on your tree and plugging them all into one outlet can be a disaster. Several light strands and the lighted Christmas Village display on the mantle can also pose problems.

If you have a live tree, please check the water at least once each day. The heat from holiday lights can ignite a dry tree and ruin your holiday season in a flash. Keep the water level in the tree stand full at all times. If you have a dehumidifier in your home, you will need to check your tree even more frequently.

Unattended Candles

Candles are a favorite for many people. They make the house smell like berries, pine trees, or spring blossoms. Whatever your favorite fragrance is, there is a candle for it. Pumpkin spice? Yep. Apple pie? Yep. In just the last ten years, fires caused by candles have tripled.

The most significant single factor in candle-related home fires is that the candles were left unattended. Leaving candles burning after household members go to sleep is another frequent cause. About 14 percent of reported candle fires occur during December. Candles around holiday decorations are very high on the list of December risks.

If you love candles — use caution. Please do not leave them unattended. Be sure to extinguish them before tucking in for the night. Use containers or candle lanterns to keep pets and children safer from open flames.

Protect Your Family — It’s Easier Than You May Think

Among the best ways to protect your family is to install good fire alarms and warning systems. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are easily integrated into your home’s smart alarm system. While they don’t prevent fires, these systems can warn your family if a fire occurs. They don’t replace the need to be conscious of what causes house fires and active prevention, but they help.

If you want more information on installing fire and CO2 alarm systems in your home, contact the experts at Stratagem Security. You can call our office at (914) 777- 8000 or use the online Contact Request form. Our knowledgeable staff can help by determining what you need to keep your family safe.

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Stratagem Security Inc.
2 Westchester Plaza, Elmsford, NY 10523