Second week of January worst of year (every year) for fire deaths in Tennessee

(SFMO press release) The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) urges Tennesseans to focus on home fire safety during the second week of January, which has traditionally been the most tragic week for fire-related incidents in the Volunteer State.

Since 2015, Tennessee has averaged almost four fire deaths per year during the second week of January. This is the highest number of fire deaths for any week of the year and is nearly double the rate of the typical week.

“While fire safety efforts are important all year long, winter causes more fire-related tragedies in Tennessee than any other season,” said Assistant Commissioner Gary Farley. “During these cold winter months, I urge Tennesseans to focus on home fire safety tips during what has historically been the most tragic and deadly week for fire-related incidents in the Volunteer State.”

In a new blog post, Farley shares important fire safety data that connects the risk of fire to colder temperatures. When the temperature drops below 32 degrees, Tennesseans are 40 percent more likely to have a home fire than if it were above 32 degrees.

When temperatures drop below 15 degrees, structure fires are twice as likely to occur than when temperatures remain above 32 degrees. Heating fires are a major reason for the increase in fires and fire deaths. Heating equipment is the third leading cause of home fire deaths both nationally and in Tennessee. Specifically, portable heaters were responsible for 19 fire deaths from 2015-2019 in our state. Tennessee averages 53 portable heating fires resulting $1.7 million dollars in reported property loss each year.

Fires from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces are less than 10% of heating fires, but account for almost 50% of heating fire deaths. This means they are disproportionately deadly.

In addition to using working smoke alarms all year long, Tennesseans are advised to remember:

  • Keep flammable items like blankets or furniture at least three feet away from space heaters and wood stoves.
  • Practice a home fire escape plan with your family. Everyone should know two ways out of each room.
  • Never smoke in a home where medical oxygen is present. The increased presence of oxygen in the air makes fire burn hotter and faster.
  • Always turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys inspected every year.
  • Burn only dry, seasoned wood in fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. Never burn garbage or use flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Make sure any fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying out. Ashes should be cool before disposing of them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
  • Install wood-burning stoves following the manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional do the installation. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If you smell gas coming from your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:20 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, his mother-in-law and cats Lucius and Oliver.

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