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TN Fire Marshal shares tips on cold weather fire safety

TN Fire Marshal shares tips on cold weather fire safety

With temperatures well bellow freezing in the last two weeks, fire safety has been on the minds of homeowners and emergency personnel alike.

“Statistics consistently show a substantial uptick in fire fatalities during heating season,” Tennessee State Fire Marshal and Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak said. “We cannot stress enough the importance of keeping safety in mind when heating your home. A few simple safety tips and precautions can prevent most heating fires from happening.”

Tennessee Winter Fire Safety Statistics

  • In Tennessee, nearly half (45.4 percent) of all fatal fires occur between November and February.
  • Heating fires are a major reason for the increase in fires and fire deaths during the winter period.
  • SFMO data indicates that 37 percent of fatal heating fires may have been caused by electric space heaters. The second leading possible source of ignition was wood stoves at 23 percent.
  • January leads all other months in residential fires, heating fires and fatal fires with the second week of January being the deadliest.
  • Since 2010, there have been 24 fatal fires resulting in 29 fatalities during the 2nd week in January.
  • When the temperature drops below 32 degrees you are 40 percent more likely to have a home fire than if it were above 32 degrees, according to state data.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office encourages Tennesseans to utilize the following safety precautions to avoid heating and carbon monoxide hazards:

  • All heaters need space. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
  • Purchase and use space heaters that have an automatic shut-off—if they tip over, they shut off.
  • Place space heaters on a solid, flat surface and keep them and their electrical cords away from things that can burn, high traffic areas, and doorways.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Burn only dry, seasoned wood in fireplaces and woodstoves. Never burn garbage or use flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
  • If the pilot light of your gas heater goes out, allow five minutes or more for the gas to go away before trying to relight the pilot. Follow manufacturer’s instructions when relighting the pilot. Do not allow gas to accumulate, and light the match before you turn on the gas to the pilot to avoid risk of flashback.
  • If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.
  • Install wood burning stoves following manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional do the installation. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to avoid CO poisoning.
  • CO alarms and smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home. See the manufacturer’s instructions for exact placement and location.

For additional home fire safety tips and resources, visit

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