Winter weather increases number of home fires

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Firefighters and people with the Red Cross are hard at work this winter responding to home fires in the area, and they're hoping to decrease that amount with some prevention tips.

Paramedics and firefighters check their equipment and vehicles every morning to make sure everything is running properly. That way they're ready to respond to a call.

"Typically every winter we know what's coming," said Capt. John Mayer, shift commander with the Grand Island Fire Department. "The numbers are always pretty steady as far as fire deaths related to home fires. The winter does bring on an increase in fires really related to the heating systems in houses."

According to the National Fire Protection Association, on average seven people die every day in the U.S. because of home fires.

Mayer said it's been a fairly average year for them so far in terms of home fires. He said they've seen more electrical and stove fires than anything else.

Mayer said there's a risk of carbon monoxide entering the home anytime there's an open flame.

That's why the department recommends everyone has both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

"We just had one of those recently where someone was poisoned with carbon monoxide due to running stoves for heat. If they're having problems with their furnace, if they're having problems with their heating system, make that call and get the service people in to get it working properly," Mayer said.

He said space heaters are fine to use as long as you keep things at least 3 feet away from them and use the proper extension chords.

Both GIFD and the Red Cross Midwest Region responded to a home fire around 7:30 p.m. Monday on 14th Street in Grand Island.

Volunteers with the Red Cross arrive on scenes like that to give people affected comfort kits and blankets.

The Red Cross Grand Island Chapter covers 64 counties across Nebraska. Brian Stephens, the disaster program manager with the Red Cross Midwest Region, said they've seen an increase in home fires since January.

Stephens said fires can't always be prevented, so you should have a home fire escape plan in place.

"Knowing your two ways out of every room, and practice that. In Nebraska we have just extreme temperatures so sometimes the windows get jammed shut and the time to be figuring out how to open your window is not when a fire is in your home. It's before," Stephens said.

He said it's important to check your smoke alarms at least once a month. Most of them last for ten years, and you can find the issue date on the back.

The Red Cross offers free smoke alarms and installations.

If you're interested in getting one, you can go to https://getasmokealarm.org/.