WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- With embers sparking a deadly fire in Stamford, Conn. and flames engulfing a Yorktown home, White Plains Fire Chief Richard Lyman warns of a traditional winter spike in fires and offers prevention tips.
Cooking traditionally is the leading cause of house fires, according to National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) statistics from 2005 to 2009, however, Lyman said heating equipment often becomes the most common culprit of fires during winter months, before, cooking and electrical flames.
He advises residents to be wary of all common fire causes and make sure that there's a working smoke detector inside every bedroom, outside the doorway of every bedroom, and on every level of your home. Depending on how you heat your home, you may need carbon monoxide detectors next to each smoke detector.
"Roughly two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke detectors. If you have a working smoke alarm you increase your time out by two minutes," said Lyman.
Families should also craft an escape plan that includes two ways out of each room in your home and ends with the family meeting at an outside destination, according to Lyman. Make sure all windows and doors involved in the plan open easily. Lyman advises practicing the plan with your family at least twice a year.
"You want to stay low because fire and smoke rise," said Lyman. "And once outside, call the fire department from a cell phone or a neighbors. Never call from inside the house. You're wasting time. And never go inside a burning building."
During the winter months, families should make sure anything flammable is kept at least three feet away from heating devices. Lyman says ovens should never be used to heat homes and portable heaters must be switched off when you go to bed or leave a room. He also recommends having a qualified professional clean your boiler and chimney every year.
To further minimize fires, Christmas trees shouldn't be left up for more than two weeks, says Lyman. The base of the tree should be filled with water at all times and Christmas tree lights should be turned off when you're not home.
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