Red Cross sees big uptick in home fires

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - In a normal year the Central and Western Nebraska Red Cross will assist at about 100 fires. But since December 1, they have had to help over 30 fires already. A lot of the fires are starting from simple mistakes that can be prevented.

Ada Be / Flickr / CC BY 2.0/MGN.

When the weather is cold, finding a quick and affordable way to heat a house is what many people are after. There are some ways that are leading to a large number of house fires this season.

“People are heating their homes through opening up an oven, or space heaters, things like that do cause for, across the state, to be an increased number of home fires,” Disaster Program Manager Brian Stephens said.

The Red Cross said space heaters should never be plugged into a power strip or extension cord. It takes too much power and could overload the extension.

The kitchen is where many of the fires begin. When cooking with oil there needs to be baking soda or an extinguisher nearby if there are flames. Also making sure all the burners are off when cooking is done.

Taking a look at wiring throughout a house is key to catching any potential sparks.

“So for electrical sometimes if wiring is old or out of date, that can cause fires too,” Stephens said. “I know in the past couple months we've had some fires start in attics with wiring.”

Having a proper space around heating units, checking fire alarms, and not using alternative heating methods can help make it so firefighters and the Red Cross don't have to come knocking after major damage has been done.

“Sometimes they can be isolated to a room or a couple rooms. Even when that happens though it does take a significant amount of time and resources to get that home back to where it's going to be more or less pre-fire,” Stephens said.

Keeping a close eye on heat sources and unplugging heaters can help save a home. People can also go to to have the Red Cross install a smoke alarm for free.