House fires increase in winter

    As the temperature outside drops, the potential for a fire inside your home increases, according to the Delaware State Fire Marshal’s Office.

    “We’ve turned the corner into winter all of a sudden,” said Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael Chionchio. “And now we have our winter issues to deal with.”

    The recent cold weather may have played a role in a couple of recent house fires in Delaware.

    Investigators say a house fire in the 600 block of Cox Neck Rd. in Delaware City Wednesday started after the homeowner lit a fire in a wood stove inside the garage.

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    And State Fire Marshal deputies determined a fire Monday in the 100 block of Reamer Ave. in Wilmington was a result of discarded fireplace ashes that were placed in a bag on the rear deck. The hot ashes ignited the deck and spread to the structure.

    There were no injuries as a result of either of the blazes.

    Chionchio says this time of year the quest to stay warm, combined with the holiday season, can create some dangerous situations.

    “So now we have fires in fireplaces, Christmas trees, decorations, space heaters, things that you typically see more of in the wintertime,” he says.

    The number one key to staying safe, Chionchio says, is the ability to escape from your home.

    “It may seem simple but in a time of emergency, you’re going to be a little panic stricken and you need to have a plan of escape for everyone in the home, including relatives that spend the holidays with you,” he said.

    And, of course, Chionchio says, smoke alarms are a must.  

    “Both of those will greatly improve your chances to survive a fire,” he said.

     Here are some more potentially life-saving tips and reminders from the Delaware State Fire Marshal’s Office:

    All appliances should only be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and specifications.
    For wood or coal stoves or fireplaces, have a professional inspect the chimney, chimney connector and other related equipment every year, and have them cleaned as often as the inspections indicate.
    Home heating appliances should be inspected annually to check for leaks and to improve efficiency.
    Space heaters should be at least three feet away from anything that can burn such as curtains, furniture, and bedding.
    Fuel portable kerosene heaters in a well-ventilated area away from flames or other heat sources, and only when the device has cooled completely. Use only the type of kerosene specified by the manufacturer, and never use gasoline.
    Portable space heaters should be turned OFF every time you leave the room or go to bed.
    Allow ashes to cool before disposing. Dispose ashes in a metal container. Keep the metal container outside away from the house.
    Never refuel a kerosene heater inside the home.
    Never use a gasoline fueled portable electric generator inside the home.
    Test your smoke detectors once a month.
    Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
    Develop and implement a fire escape plan and include children and holiday visitors into the escape plan.
    Consult organizations such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission to keep current with recent recalls and safety bulletins.
    Contact your local fire department or fire marshal’s office if you have a question regarding home fire safety.

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