Topeka, Kan. — Over the past three days, the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) has investigated four fatality fires in Northeast Kansas. There was one in Shawnee County on Friday, one in Jackson County on Sunday, and two in Pottawatomie County, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. All were unrelated. This year alone, our office has investigated 90 fires with 13 of them being fatal. While last year, at this time, we had investigated 43 fires, and there were 20 fatality fires for the entire year.
These fatality fires have been a mix of accidental, arson and homicides.
“We can’t control the will of someone to commit an arson or homicide,” Wally Roberts, OSFM Investigations Chief, said. “But we can control our own actions. Many of these fires are accidental and preventable through simple fire safety measures.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), home fires occur more in the winter than in any other season, and heating equipment is involved in one of every six reported home fires, and one in every five home fire deaths.
Space heaters are the type of equipment most often involved in home heating equipment fires, accounting for more than two of every five fires, as well as the vast majority of deaths and injuries in home fires caused by heating equipment.
Here are a few fire-safety tips to follow for the remainder of the winter months:
- Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet from any source like fireplaces, wood stoves, radiators or space heaters.
- Plug one heat-producing appliance (i.e. space heater) into an electrical outlet at a time.
- Never use an extension cord for a space heater.
- Store cooled ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep it outside at least 10 feet from your home and any nearby buildings.
- Keep portable generators outside, away from windows, and as far away from your home as possible.
- Install and test carbon monoxide alarms at least once a month.
- Make sure to have working smoke alarms on every level of your home.
“We know smoke alarms save lives,” State Fire Marshal Doug Jorgensen said. “However, they must be working. A few seconds each month to check or change the batteries in a smoke alarm can be the difference between life or death when it comes to a fire. And if they are over 10 years old, replace them.”
The OSFM’s Get Alarmed, Kansas program provides free smoke alarms to fire departments across the state to install free for homeowners in their districts. For more information on this program contact your local fire department or visit: GetAlarmedKS.org. The program also provides smoke alarms for individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing directly.
There are also many programs that can assist residents with rising utility costs. The Kansas Corporation Commission provides information on assistance with utilities at this website: https://kcc.ks.gov/consumer-information/utility-assistance-programs.
“Unfortunately, this has been a very busy time for our investigation team,” Jorgensen said. “There are many factors contributing to the rise in home fires this year. We implore Kansans to think twice before cutting corners to heat their homes and to simply reach out if they need assistance this winter.”