Cold weather keeps firefighters busy

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Frigid temperatures have kept Memphis firefighters hot on their feet this new year.

According to Fire Check, Inc. safety expert Bob Parker, fires spike every winter.

"We're not used to this particular kind of cold," Parker said Sunday. "This 10-degree cold, this 20-degree cold, and so everybody fires everything up."

Over the weekend, a fire skewered a Southwest Memphis home on East Davant, killing an unidentified 54-year-old man.  Though investigators haven't released the cause, transients often seek shelter in similarly vacant homes.

"They'll gather combustibles and often times they'll pile them in the middle of the floor and set them on fire," Parker said.

Across town in Southeast Memphis, a small kitchen fire on Ironwood seared a 25-year-old man with third degree burns.  A four year-old girl suffered less severe injuries.
Both were hospitalized.

"The best thing to do with a grease fire is to simply put a lid on it and it will put itself out.," Parker said.

Parker added you should never use water, because fiery grease splatters.

In Northeast Memphis, on Netherwood, a faulty clothes dryer burned a hole clear through the roof of a home. No one was hurt.  Highly flammable clothes lint is often the cause in cases like this, but it's not just your lint filter.

"That hose in the back - the crinkly big hose - that's where the lint goes," Parker said. "So if you can get a brush and clean that out, you'll be a whole lot better off."

The National Fire Protection Association says these are the leading causes of fire.<

Top Home Fire Causes
1. Cooking equipment          40%
2. Heating equipment          18%
3. Electrical/lighting              6%
4. Candle                             5%
5. Smoking materials            4%
6. Playing with heat source    2%
Source: Nat'l. Fire Protection Assoc.

While cooking equipment is the number one cause of fires, smoking causes the most deaths.

"We still have people who smoke in bed or smoke on a couch and they go to sleep smoking," Parker said.

But no matter what you do, fires can happen.

"The main thing is to have a working smoke detector," Parker said. "That will save more lives than anything I can do or anyone else can do.  A working smoke detector saves lives."

Researchers say non-working smoke alarms outnumber ones that work. You need at least one detector for every 500 square feet of your home.

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