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Winter heating raises risk of fires

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From Staff Reports

Friday, January 11, 2019

After one of the deadliest years on record for fire fatalities in North Carolina, Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Causey is urging residents to stay focused on fire safety and prevention in 2019.

In 2018, 133 people lost their lives in North Carolina because of fire — 50 more people than the year before. In most of these fires, a working smoke alarm was not present.

“The risk of death due to fire can be diminished with the proper use of smoke alarms,” Causey said.

To help reduce the number of fire fatalities in 2019, Causey is leading a statewide effort to provide more education on heating fires, oxygen related fires and the leading cause of house fires: Cooking. The State Fire Marshal’s office will also be asking state legislators for additional funding to implement more community risk reduction programs and to hire more fire investigators to assist local fire departments.

In more than 40 percent of the fire fatalities in 2018, investigators were not able to determine a cause due to a lack of evidence. However, investigators believe the majority of those fires were caused by heating sources inside the home.

Each year during December, January and February, there is an increase in the number of home fires related to heating. According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating is the second leading cause of home fires, deaths and injuries in the U.S.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, working smoke alarms save lives and cut the risk of dying in a fire in half.

Causey recommends the following advice about smoke alarms:

■ Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room, outside each separate sleeping room and on every level of the home, including the basement.

■ An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires, and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, a combination of alarms or dual-sensor alarms are recommended.

■ Follow the manufacturer’s instructions in the package or online for cleaning.

■ Make sure everyone in your home understands the warning of the smoke alarm and knows how to respond.

■ Smoke alarms with non-replaceable batteries (long-life) batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. Replace smoke alarms when they are 10 years old. If the alarm chirps warning that the battery is low, replace the entire unit right away.

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