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As temps go down, risk of fire can go up

As temperatures being to drop in Lafayette County, residents are reminded to make being safe first and foremost when heating their homes.

Temperatures are expected to be in the low 30s at night throughout the area this weekend and State Fire Marshal Mike Chaney to use caution when using space heaters and other forms of heating sources.

As days get milder and nights grow cooler, many Mississippians, especially the elderly, who are more susceptible to the cold, are beginning to turn on and use space heaters,” Chaney said. Too many fires and fire deaths are caused by faulty heating equipment or people using ill-advised methods to stay warm.”

He added that having a working smoke alarm in your home can cut your risk of dying in a home fire in half.

According to the National Weather Service, a cold front will be blowing into Oxford on Friday, bringing heavy rain and a chance for thunderstorms. The low temperature for Friday night is expected to hit 36 degrees. On Saturday, the high is forecast to be 52 with a low that night of 32 degrees. Sunday will be similar until things start to warm up a bit with highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s for most of next week.

A National Fire Protection Association 2010 report shows the leading factor contributing to ignition for home heating fire deaths was heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses, or bedding. Home heating fires peak during 6 to 8 p.m., and associated deaths peak during 2 to 4 a.m.

Space heaters cause about one-third of all winter house fires and 80 percent of all winter-heating fire deaths, according to the NFPA.

Space heaters also account for more than 70 percent of all winter fire injuries and half of all property damage causedinheating fires.

The State Fire Marshal’s office investigated more than 50 reported fire deaths in 2016 and more than 40 so far this year.

Lafayette County Fire Coordinator Wes Anderson suggests homeowners using space heaters check to make sure the extension cord can handle the space heater’s output.

People sometimes plug them into an extension cord that can’t handle the load and then put the cord under a rug,” Anderson said. “Space heaters can also tip over and many don’t have an automatic off switch when that happens.”

Space heaters should be kept at least 3 feet away from anything that could overheat and catch on fire.

Wall heaters generally don’t have an off button either,” Anderson said. “During the summer, couches and other things get pushed in front of them and when the temperature drops, they turn on automatically. Make sure there’s nothing in front of the wall heater or radiators now that cooler weather has arrived.”

Safety tips 

As you prepare for cold weather, the State Fire Marshal’s office offers these heating safety tips:

Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.

Supervise children when a fireplace, fire pit, or other space heater is being used. Use a sturdy, metal screen to prevent contact burns, which are even more common than flame burns.

All heaters need space. Keep things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.

Use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.

Never use your oven for heating.

Install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment, according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.

Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms to avoidriskof carbon monoxide poisoning.

Also, be a good neighbor. Check with the elderly or relatives and friends who may need additional assistance to ensure their safety. If you lose your heat, seal off unused rooms by stuffing towels in the cracks under the doors. At night, cover windows with extra blankets or sheets.

Should a fire break out in the home, have an emergency evacuation plan for the family to follow and have a designated meeting place for all family members. Once everyone is outside the burning home, call 911 and do not re-enter the home under any circumstances.