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Red Cross Offers Tips on Preventing Home Fires

SAN DIEGO, December 30, 2010 The cold weather and winter conditions often bring an increase in home fires as many people use alternate heating sources such as space heaters, fireplaces, or coal or wood stoves to stay warm, and the American Red Cross - San Diego and Imperial Counties Chapter today offered a series of tips to help people stay safe and warm.

Fires related to heating are the second leading cause of home fires in this country, and fixed and portable space heaters are involved in 74 percent of fire-related deaths.

Last year, the San Diego and Imperial Counties Red Cross Chapter responded to 238 fires in our community.

The American Red Cross urges everyone to use caution when turning to these different methods of keeping their home warm and offers the following safety tips on how to prevent fires:

  • Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains 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 the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
  • If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and 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, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over as another safety measure.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  • Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.
  • Most people don’t realize that home fires are the biggest disaster threat in this country – ahead of floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. The Red Cross responds to as many as 63,000 home fires every year. That’s 170 fires a day -- or one fire response every eight minutes.

    “Planning for fire emergencies is important,” said Chris Marek, Chief Officer, Development and Communications. “Make sure all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home, and set up a meeting place outside in case of fire. Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year and at different times of the day. Teach household members to stop, drop and roll if their clothing should catch on fire.”

    Smoke alarms save lives, and people should install smoke alarms on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas; check monthly that smoke alarms are working properly by pushing the test button; replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year, and replace smoke alarms every ten years.

    For more information about fire safety and steps to take to be prepared, visit

    About the American Red Cross San Diego and Imperial Counties Chapter

    The San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross is leading the effort to make San Diego and Imperial Valley Counties “America’s Most Prepared Community.” As a charitable organization and not a government agency, the Red Cross depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. The Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The local chapter also provides nutritional counseling through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. For more information, please call (858) 309-1200 or visit