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Fire safety: Stay warm, but safe

According to a 2005 study by the Centers for Disease Control, deaths from fires and burns are the fifth most common cause of unintentional injury deaths in the United States and the third leading cause of fatal home injury.
Residential fires accounted for 81 percent of all fire deaths and 79 percent of the injuries to civilians in 2006. Between 1997 and 2006, an average of slightly more than 3,000 civilians lost their lives and another 15,340 were injured annually as the result of residential house fires. And when it comes to the deadliest months, December, January and February lead the way.
Although the number of fatalities and injuries caused by residential fires has declined gradually during the past several decades, many residential fire-related deaths remain preventable.
The best thing people can do to increase their chances of survival in a fire is to install smoke detectors throughout their home.
In a fire, smoke and deadly gases tend to spread farther and faster than heat. That’s one reason why most fire victims die from inhalation of smoke and toxic gases, not as a result of burns. A majority of fatal fires happen when families are asleep because occupants are unaware of the fire until there is not adequate time to escape.
About two-thirds of home fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. Properly-installed and maintained smoke alarms are considered to be one of the best and least expensive means of providing an early warning of a potentially deadly fire and could reduce the risk of dying from a fire in your home by almost half.
With winter weather here in full force, it’s important to remember that when you fire up those heating units, safety should be at the top of your mind. Whether it be a fireplace, a kerosene heater or a wood stove, carelessness can lead to serious injury or even death. Here’s a list of tips that’ll help make sure your family stays safe during the winter months:
‘ Maintain a three-foot separation between things that can burn and heating equipment. This includes draperies, blankets, clothing, bedding, etc.
‘ When buying a new space heater, make sure it carries the mark of an independent testing laboratory and is legal for use in your community.
‘ Install stationary space heaters according to manufacturer’s instructions or applicable codes.
‘ Plug electric-powered space heaters into outlets with sufficient capacity and never into an extension cord.
‘ Use the proper grade of fuel for your liquid-fueled space heater, and never use gasoline in any heater not approved for gasoline use. Refuel only in a well-ventilated area and when the equipment is cool.
‘ Use only dry, seasoned wood in a fireplace or wood stove to avoid the build-up of creosote, an oily deposit that easily catches fire and accounts for most chimney fires and the largest share of home heating fires. Use only paper or kindling wood, not a flammable liquid, to start the fire. Do not use artificial logs in wood stoves.
‘ Do not use your oven to heat your home.
‘ Inspect all heating equipment annually and clean as necessary.

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