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Freezing Temperatures Increase the Risk of Home Fires

cold weather in ny and red cross helps
The Red Cross urges residents to be extremely careful when heating their homes.

As freezing temperatures continue to blanket the Greater New York Region, American Red Cross disaster responders are on heightened alert to assist residents displaced by home fires.

“Extreme temperatures cause an increase not only in the number of fires we respond to, they also increase the risk of multiple-alarm fires,” said Luis Avila, chief emergency services officer for the Greater New York Red Cross.

In the case of this current cold front, the Red Cross has already witnessed a spike—nearly 40 fire responses in the last five days. Eight of these have been multiple alarms, including two four-alarms in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Washington Heights, N.Y., respectively.

During this same period of time, nearly 200 New Yorkers have received some form of Red Cross relief in the aftermath of these fires—emergency housing, funds for food and clothing, a blanket, health services, emotional support.

One reason for the rise in house fires is the use of alternative forms of heating. This is why the Red Cross urges residents to be extremely careful when heating their homes. Below are a few tips to help residents stay safe:

•Keep all potential sources of fuel—like paper, clothing, bedding or rugs—at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves or fireplaces.

•Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in a fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.

•If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard, nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

•When buying a space heater, as an additional safety measure, look for models that shut off automatically should the heater fall over.

•Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.

•Make sure to confine fires within your fireplace; use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.

As the Red Cross offers assistance and comfort to those affected by fires in our area, the organization also continues to provide relief to Sandy-affected residents. For more information on the Red Cross response to Hurricane Sandy click here.