Cool Weather Heating Sparks Fall Fires

October 13, 2006 - Posted at 6:11 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- Two house fires kept firefighters in Craighead County busy Thursday night....fortunately, no one was injured, but both homes were destroyed--one on Huntington Avenue, the other on Craighead County Road 713.

Thursday night's cold temperatures no doubt prompted many to light their furnaces or other heating devices.  While fire officials are still investigating what happened in both cases...winter time can be dangerous as people try to heat their homes.

As cooler temperatures roll into Region 8, more and more folks are using their heat for the first time, and for one family, using the fireplace turned out to be an almost deadly experience.

The scene Thursday night on County Road 713 left the sky lit up with flames that destroyed the home Juanita Malone rented with her four children.  It was so fierce it took both the Philadelphia and Brookland Fire Departments to extinguish the flames. Officials are still investigating the cause of the blaze, but Malone believes the fireplace is where it began.

"It helps to have a spark guard.  Sometimes the fire will burn and throw sparks out and if they have a screen in front of the fire place, they can prevent that," said Jonesboro Fired Department Captain Eric Brown.

Chimney maintenance is also a must.

"Have those inspected and cleaned once a year. Over a period of time, things burning, wood burning in the fireplace will cause a creosote to build up and cause a lot of chimney fires," said Brown.

Space heaters, over loading electrical outlets and storing things too close to the furnace can also be fire hazards.

"Carbon dioxide monitors are vital," said Brown, "You need to have those because sometimes return air vents get blocked and cause carbon dioxide to get built up in the house."

And finally, have a plan. Malone was able to escape with her four children...keeping this devastating fire from becoming a tragedy.

"What we suggest is that they go to the mailbox in front of their house and me their parents there and go to a neighbor's house.  Any landmark in the front of the house or behind their house where they can get out of their house and meet their parents and make sure they talk beforehand," said Brown.

Some extra safety tips suggested by the U.S. Fire Administration:

  • Every home should have at least one working smoke alarm
  • Prevent electrical fires by never overload circuits or extension cords
  • Use appliances wisely and unplug when not in use
  • Alternate Heaters
  •   Portable heaters need their space. Keep anything combustible at least three feet away.
  • Kerosene heaters should be used only where approved by authorities. Never use gasoline or camp-stove fuel. Refuel outside and only after the heater has cooled.
  • Affordable Home Fire Safety Sprinklers
  • When home fire sprinklers are used with working smoke alarms, your chances of surviving a fire are greatly increased. Sprinklers are affordable - they can increase property value and lower insurance rates.
  • Caring for Children
  • Children under five are naturally curious about fire. Many play with matches and lighters. Tragically, children set over 20,000 house fires every year. Take the mystery out of fire play by teaching your children that fire is a tool, not a toy.
  • Caring for Older People
  • Every year over 1,200 senior citizens die in fires. Many of these fire deaths could have been prevented. Seniors are especially vulnerable because many live alone and can't respond quickly.