Fatal Home Fires Jumped Nearly 68% during Cooler Months
WASHINGTON, D.C. – “Home fire season” starts now, and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) is working to make this year’s cold months safer than last years—when there was a dramatic increase in home fire deaths. According to the USFA, during the “home fire season” of October 2007 to March 2008, there was a 68% increase in the number of fatal home fires and a 67% increase in the number of people killed in home fires, compared to the warmer months.
Not including arson-related deaths, from April 2007 through September 2007 at least 589 people were killed in home fires. When it became cooler, from October 2007 through March 2008, at least 982 people were killed in home fires.
Through its Smoking & Home Fires Campaign, the USFA wants to make this season safer, especially as it relates to the number one cause of preventable home fire deaths in the nation — fires caused by smoking materials.
“Every year, about 1,000 people are killed in smoking-related home fires,” says U.S. Fire Administrator Gregory B. Cade. “Smokers tend to smoke inside their homes more often because it’s cooler outside, so what’s important to remember is that smoking home fires can easily be prevented.” He added, “It just takes a few seconds to light up – and a few seconds to make sure that cigarette is really out.”
During this time of the year, the use of holiday lighting, ornamental candles and space heaters also raises the risk of home fires.
Here’s what you can do to prevent a smoking home fire:
- If you feel you must smoke, it’s better to smoke outside.
- Inside the home, use big ashtrays with a stable base.
- Really put the cigarette out, don’t just tap it into the ashtray.
- It’s not a good idea to smoke if you are drowsy, and never smoke in bed.
- If people smoke while at your home, check for cigarette butts near the furniture and under sofa cushions before you call it a night.
- Douse butts and ashes with water before you toss them into the trash.
- If you or someone in your family smokes, Put It Out. All the Way. Every Time.
The USFA has materials for consumers, firefighters, and the media including a video demonstrating how fast a smoldering cigarette can ignite and consume a room.
Through its Smoking & Home Fires Campaign, the USFA is reminding smokers and those who live with smokers to make sure smoking materials are properly extinguished and that they “Put It Out. All the Way. Every Time.”
USFA data show that one-in-four people killed in home fires is not the smoker whose cigarette caused the fire. In fact, 34% were children of the smokers and 25% were neighbors or friends of the smokers. Most smoking-related home fires happen on beds, furniture, or in trash when smokers do not put cigarettes all the way out, toss hot ashes in the trash or fall asleep while smoking.
Launched in January 2008, the USFA’s Smoking & Home Fires Campaign is working in partnership with 16 national organizations to spread the message about fire safety including the:
- American Fire Sprinkler Association
- Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association International (BIFMA)
- Burn Foundation
- Center for Campus Fire Safety
- International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
- Fire and Life Safety Section (part of IAFC)
- Florida Association of Fire and Life Safety Educators
- Home Safety Council
- International Association of Black Professional Firefighters
- National Association of Hispanic Firefighters
- National Fallen Firefighters Foundation
- National Fire Protection Association
- National Volunteer Fire Council
- Polyurethane Foam Association
- Residential Fire Safety Institute
- SAFE KIDS Worldwide
The free campaign materials include a CD Toolkit with English and Spanish posters, brochures, fact sheets, public service announcements, PowerPoint presentations, an engaging video of a smoking-home fire demonstration, and more. The USFA also has video and radio PSAs available. The materials are available online and can be ordered or downloaded by visiting www.usfa.dhs.gov/smoking. Fire departments and community organizations are encouraged to use these free materials.