15 Winter Fire Safety Tips to Keep Your Family Safe This Year

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: March 3, 2023

There are many steps you can take to protect your home and your family from fires this winter.

These winter fire safety tips put together by our Chicago fire damage restoration experts are precautions you and your family can take to reduce the risk of emergencies in your home and save lives.

3 Winter Fire Statistics You Should Know About

The winter months have the most house fires of any other season. What causes house fires in the winter?

As temperatures drop and the cost of heating a home increases, this is the time of the year that you and many other families are looking for alternate heating sources.

It’s important to understand how serious fires are during these months and prepare your home in case of an emergency.

Holiday Decoration Fires Statistics

christmas tree fire

In the 4 years from 2014-2018, fire departments responded to an average of 770 structural fires each year that began from household holiday decorations.

These fires resulted in deaths, injuries, and property damage.

Christmas Tree Fires

Between the years 2014 and 2018, fire departments responded to an average of 160 house fires that began with a Christmas tree. Fire departments report that an average of two people die in each of these fires, and they amount to $10 million in property damage annually.

Household Appliance Fires

Statistics show that alternate heating sources like electric heaters, fireplaces, and other appliances cause over 65,000 home fires each year.

What are some ways to avoid these tragedies from happening?

We’ve put together a list of essential winter fire safety tips to keep you safe and informed.

15 Life-Saving Winter Fire Safety Tips

Fires lead to hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries annually. The winter also brings the holiday season, so while we all gather in our homes to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year, we must keep our families and our homes safe from fires.

1. Inspect Heating Appliances

This is the time of the year that people purchase electric heaters to keep their homes warm. Electric heaters make rooms toasty and warm for the people in them, but they are also major winter fire hazards if you don’t inspect them or if you leave them unattended.

When you buy an electric heater, make sure that it is a heater approved by the Underwriter Laboratories or UL. UL is an organization known around the world that certifies products for safety.

Return and replace heaters if you find they have damaged parts. Replace any equipment that does not work properly, as it could cause a fire. It’s also best to plug electric heaters into wall outlets and not into extension cords.

2. Use Electric Heaters with Tip-Shutoff Feature

Look for a heater that will shut off automatically when it tips over. Heaters with this tipping shut-off feature are the best choice for your home if the heater tips over when no one is around. Without power, the appliance’s heated parts are less of a threat to furniture, rugs, or other appliances near it if it falls.

3. Attend to Powered Heat Sources

You should never leave electric heaters or open flames unattended in a room.

Not only will you save money, but you will also keep your home safe by powering down your heat sources when you are away. Stay aware of when you’re using these appliances to reduce the risk of accidents from happening.

4. Attend To Cooking

cooking fire accident

Hot stoves and smoke can ignite objects in your kitchen or set off smoke detectors if you leave them on and forget them. Make sure to stay in the kitchen while your stove is on and turn it off before leaving. Always double-check that you have turned off your stove or oven before heading to bed.

5. Inspect Fireplaces and Chimneys

Before you begin using your fireplace, look around it to check for both soot and creosote. Creosote is from previous fires, and it ignites easily, so you want to clear the area around your fireplace of any residue of earlier fires that can be hazardous.

To make sure your chimney is safe, look for soot on the walls near where the chimney is in your home. If there is an outline of soot that follows your chimney, it could mean that you are in need of repairs from a leak. Inspect and keep your chimney clean to make it a safe and cozy feature, and to prevent devastating chimney fires.

6. Ventilate Rooms

Fires aren’t the only danger electric heating appliances bring into the home. There is also the danger of carbon monoxide, smoke, or other harmful gases lingering that cause health issues or even death.

To prevent the presence and build-up of these gases, make sure that the rooms in your house are well-ventilated. Allow clean air to travel through your home. Though it is cold outside, you should find a way to let fresh air into your home every so often to help replenish the air.

7. Inspect Smoke Detectors

inspecting smoke detector

Red Cross estimates the fire death rate for houses with smoke alarms is 51% less than other houses without working smoke alarms.

Now is the time to make sure that your smoke detectors are fully-functional. These alarms will alert you and give you time to escape your house if necessary or alert you if something in your home is causing smoke and can start a fire.

It’s important to inspect your smoke detectors and make sure they always have proper batteries, and are functioning correctly.

8. Inspect Carbon Monoxide Detectors

If you don’t have carbon monoxide detectors in your home, think about installing some. Since carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, and tasteless gas, there is no way that you can detect its presence with your senses alone.

Carbon monoxide detectors will alert you about the presence of the gas in your home. It will allow you and your family to evacuate your home safely and can save your lives.

9. Keep the Nearest Fire Hydrant Clear of Ice

Your neighbors or the buildings around you may need help from your local fire department to put out a fire. You can help your fire department act quickly in case of an emergency by ensuring the nearest fire hydrant is accessible.

Hydrants that need thawing will slow down how fast the fire department can extinguish a fire if they need access to it.

Be sure never to park your car, or put anything in front of the access of a fire hydrant. This could land you a ticket, as well as jeopardize your safety and the safety of others.

10. Check Batteries and Power Sources

You can keep your home safe by making sure that you replace the batteries for anything that is battery powered in your home. These could be smoke or carbon monoxide detectors, flashlights, or even batteries for household appliances.

11. Use New and Functioning Extension Cords

electric cord on fire

Old extension cords and wires are winter fire hazards.

Cords that don’t supply enough power or that have frayed parts can spark and ignite fires in your home unexpectedly. You can replace any damaged or frayed cords in your home with new ones to reduce the risk of them sparking or igniting.

12. Do Not Run Cables Under Furniture

Another step to take with the cables in your house is to ensure that they are not running under or near furniture that can catch fire. You want cables to steer clear from anything that they could ignite if they cause sparks. Also, make sure that wires are kept away from rugs.

13. Keep Christmas Trees Away From Fireplaces and Candles

You can protect your family by keeping the Christmas tree away from anything that might burn the branches and ferns. Position your tree several feet away from your fireplace and make sure that there aren’t any lit candles near it.

14. Use Flashlights Instead of Candles During a Blackout

Though candles might be an immediate light source, it’s always best to use a flashlight instead of candles to light your way. Candles are an open flame that can burn objects around you that you can’t see in the dark.

15. Put Candles Out

Since candles are an open flame, they can burn flammable materials near them, and this could lead to a larger fire in your home.

To keep your home safe while you use candles, make sure to put out your candles after use. Never fall asleep with a candle lit, or leave the room unattended until you fully extinguish the flame.

You should also keep your candles away from objects in your home that can easily burn.

Experienced a Winter House Fire in Chicago or Suburbs? We Can Help!

If you’ve gone through the tragic event of a house fire, we offer our services by cleaning up after fire damage, replacing your possessions, restoring your property after a fire, and even assisting with insurance. We’re here for you 24/7, and we can help make this devastating event a little less stressful.

For any questions about fire damage restoration, call us at 773-647-1985 or request service through our website.