Fire department urges safety first while keeping warm

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - With the chilly air sticking around, people are doing what they can to stay warm.

But on Tuesday alone, Memphis fire investigators said three fires were caused by families trying to stay warm.

During winter months, firefighters see a big increase in the number of house fires, often the result of someone trying to stay warm.

Just before lunch on Tuesday, a heating unit in the hallway at a home on Navaho Avenue malfunctioned. The damage to the home is estimated to be $35,000.

Less than an hour later, a faulty fireplace in the living room ignited a home on Darby Street.

"The three leading causes of fire are heating units, electrical appliances, and cooking and leaving cooking unattended," said Memphis Fire Department Lieutenant Wayne Cook. "So, when those indoor activities increase, a lot of times our fires increase."

Fire officials said they've seen people using everything from hair dryers to ovens to keep warm--sources of heat they don't recommend using beyond their intended purpose.

Space heaters are popular for a number of reasons: they're small, cost-efficient, and can keep your family warm.

Cook said they are also some of the most dangerous.

"Make sure they are away from any that could burn at least three feet," Cook said.

According to a warning from the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters are a leading cause of house fires.

They should always be turned off when no one is in the room or when someone is sleeping and kept away from bedding, clothing, and curtains.

The fire department said it's never too late to have your heating sources inspected to make sure they are properly working.

You should also double-check your smoke detector to make sure it's working. If you don't have one, the fire department will give you one for free.

Warming centers will also stay open through Sunday for anyone in need of a warm place to stay. Click here for more information.

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