While fires and carbon monoxide can pose dangers at any time of year, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says the risks are more prevalent during the winter than any other season. According to the NFPA, each year U.S. fire departments respond to more than 53,600 home structure fires that involve heating equipment. These fires cause, on average, 400 deaths and 1,520 injuries. But, there are ways to put a freeze on the dangers with this information from the NFPA and The American Red Cross.

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Fire Prevention

Keep a three-foot clearance between all heating equipment and anything that can burn

  • Do not use your oven to heat your home
  • Inspect and maintain heating equipment regularly
  • Turn off portable space heaters whenever leaving a room and before bed
  • Make sure space heaters are tested by a recognized testing laboratory
  • Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room
    • More fireplace safety tips below
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys inspected and cleaned every year

Fire Safety

  • If a fire occurs in your home – GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL FOR HELP
  • Talk with all household members about a fire escape plan and practice the plan twice a year
    • Know two ways to escape every room
    • Make sure everyone knows where to meet outside in case of fire
    • Make sure everyone knows how to call 9-1-1
    • WORKSHEET: Map Your Home Escape Plan
  • Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home
    • Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one
    • Test smoke alarm monthly
    • Replace batteries at least once a year, or immediately if the low battery warning chirps
    • Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years
  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Teach all household members to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothes should catch fire
  • More Fire Safety: American Red Cross

Fireplace Safety: The Dos and Don’ts


Keep your family safe with this vital information from the Cumberland Hill Fire Department.

  • DO: Replace batteries in smoke detectors and CO2 detectors often.
  • DO: Have your chimney inspected and cleaned by a licensed professional before burning.
  • DO: Always burn dry, clean wood.
  • DON’T: Use accelerants like gasoline, lighter fluid, etc. to start a fire.
  • DO: Wear protective gloves when working around a fire.

REMEMBER: Fire embers can stay hot for up to four days when insulated inside of ash.

  • DO: Use a metal container with a lid to remove ashes.
  • DON’T: Use plastic, paper, or cardboard containers to remove ashes, as those materials could easily catch fire.
  • DO: Place metal container with embers far away from your home and any combustible material.
  • DO: Place container on asphalt or concrete.
  • DO: Wet down the embers when outside, away from any combustible material.
  • DON’T: Vacuum hot embers.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas. It has no odor. CO gas is poisonous. It can make a person feel sick and can be deadly. In the home, heating and cooking devices that burn fuel can be sources of carbon monoxide. According to the Centers for Disease Control, symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • High levels can cause loss of consciousness and death.

Carbon monoxide detectors are the best way to protect yourself against this invisible killer. The NFPA suggests homeowners:

  • Install a CO alarm outside each sleeping area and test each month
    • If the CO alarm sounds, get to fresh air and call the fire department immediately
  • Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory
  • Interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.

To keep your family safe, the NFPA also suggests homeowners:

  • Don’t warm a fueled engine, like a car or snow blower, in the garage – move it outside
  • Clear snow away from vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace during and after a snowstorm
  • Keep generators outside and away from doors, windows, and vent openings
  • Have a heating system and chimneys inspected each year before use
  • Open the damper when using a fireplace
  • Never use a stove or oven to heat your home
  • Only use gas or charcoal grills – which can produce CO – outside

Holiday Decorations

The holidays should be a joyous time of year. However, improperly used decorations can cause a fire risk. 


According to NFPA, the top three days for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Day and Christmas Eve. If you like to burn candles, there are some safety steps you should keep in mind.

  • Blow out candles when you leave a room or go to bed.
  • Avoid using candles in the bedroom or other areas where people fall asleep
    • Roughly 1/3 of home candle fires start in the bedroom
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn
  • Use candle holders that are sturdy and won’t tip over easily and place on a sturdy, clutter-free surface
  • Keep hair and clothing away from the flame
  • Never use a candle if oxygen is used in the home
  • Have flashlights ready to use during a power outage. Never use candles.
  • NEVER leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle
    • Keep matches and lighters up high and out of reach in a locked cabinet

Christmas Trees

One in every three home Christmas tree fires is electrical in nature.

  • The Tree
    • Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that don’t fall off when touched
    • Before placing in stand, cut 2″ from the base of the trunk
    • Keep tree at least three feet away from any heat source
    • Make sure tree is not blocking an exit
    • Add water to tree stand daily
    • Get rid of tree after Christmas or when it is dry
  • The Lights
    • Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory
    • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections
    • Connect no more than mini string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs
    • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree
    • Always turn of tree lights before leaving home or going to bed