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November 20, 2007

Governor Blagojevich urges fire safety during holiday season and winter months to save lives
Governor's Keep Warm Illinois campaign and State Fire Marshal offer tips to help families stay safe

SPRINGFIELD – As people throughout the state turn up the heat in their homes to fight the cold winter air, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today reminded Illinoisans to keep fire safety in mind.  Last year in Illinois, heating equipment caused 355 fires, resulting in 12 injuries, one death and more than $12.5 million in property damage.
“While the holiday season is a favorite time of year for many people, it’s also the time when we see an increased number of home fires that could have been prevented with a little caution,” said Gov. Blagojevich.  “A few simple steps to ensure safety can save lives this winter.”
The Office of the State Fire Marshal’s (OSFM) efforts to increase awareness about home heating and holiday fire safety dangers are part of Gov. Blagojevich’s Keep Warm Illinois campaign, a comprehensive effort to inform and prepare Illinois residents for winter with information on energy assistance, home weatherization and winter safety tips.  For more information, visit www.keepwarm.illinois.gov or call (877) 411-WARM.
“The State Fire Marshal’s Office is pleased to once again join with Gov. Blagojevich’s Keep Warm Illinois campaign to help people stay safe and warm this winter,” said State Fire Marshal David B. Foreman.  “We don’t want anyone’s holiday celebrations to be ruined by a tragic fire.  And even after the holiday season is over, people still need to play it safe when heating their homes."
According to the most recent statistic available through the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment was involved in an estimated 59,000 home structure fires in 2004 in the U.S., resulting in 330 deaths, 1,250 injuries and $540 million in direct property damage.  Portable and fixed space heaters, including wood stoves, were involved in 25 percent of the home heating fires but caused 74 percent of the deaths. 
Holiday decorations create additional fire hazards during December.  In 2006, there were 45 fires statewide caused by holiday decorations, resulting in one death, four injuries and more than $500,000 in damage.  Nearly twice as many candle fires generally occur during December than any other month of the year, with Christmas the peak day for candle fires.
Space heaters
  • Many space heater-related fires are caused by combustibles placed too close to the heater.  Always keep a 36-inch clearance between space heaters and anything that can burn. 
  • Portable space heaters should be turned off every time you leave the room or go to bed.
  • When buying a new space heater, make sure it carries the mark of an independent testing laboratory.
  • Have fixed space heaters, such as wood-burning stoves, installed by a qualified technician, according to manufacturer’s instructions or applicable codes.  If your home already has a fixed space heater, have a qualified technician check to see that the unit has been properly installed.
  • Creosote build up is a major contributor to chimney fires.
  • Wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, chimney connectors and all other solid-fueled heating equipment should be inspected annually by a professional and cleaned as often as inspections suggest.
  • Use properly seasoned wood in fireplaces or wood stoves.  Green wood has more moisture and is likely to smolder, leading to more creosote build-up.  A moisture content of 20 to 25 percent is recommended, as wood that is too well seasoned may also result in creosote build-up.
  • Fireplaces should have a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room. 
  • Allow fireplace and woodstove ashes to cool before disposing in a metal container.
  • Furnaces also should be checked every year by professionals to ensure mechanical parts are functioning properly and that nothing is blocking the flue.  Such inspections will help keep energy costs down as well as ensure the safety of the home’s occupants.  Malfunctioning furnaces increase both fire and carbon monoxide risks.
Christmas Trees
  • Live Christmas trees dry out quickly once they’re brought into a home, and a dry Christmas tree can quickly go up in flames if proper caution isn’t observed.
  • When buying a live Christmas tree, select a freshly cut tree or one that hasn’t been on the sales lot for very long.
  • Position the live tree at least three feet away from any heat source.
  • Refill water in the tree stand regularly.
  • Never use candles to decorate a tree, and keep all candles away from the tree.

  • Place candles on stable furniture, in sturdy holders that will catch dripping wax.
  • Never leave a candle unattended.
  • If the power goes out, use flashlights for illumination, not candles.
  • Keep candles away from all things that can catch fire.
  • Place candles on higher furniture, where they won’t be knocked over by children or pets.
  • Never place lit candles in windows, where they could ignite blinds or curtains.
  • Don’t allow children or teens to have candles in their bedrooms.
  • Extinguish candles carefully, using a long-handled candled snuffer or a soft, directed blow.  Be careful not to splatter wax when extinguishing.
Lighting and decorations
  • Use caution with holiday decorations and whenever possible, choose those made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant or non-combustible materials.
  • Purchase only lights and electrical decorations bearing the name of an independent testing lab, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and maintenance.
  • Do not overload extension cords.
  • Check your strands of lights to determine the number of strands that may be connected.
  • Don’t mount lights in any way that can damage the cord’s wire insulation.  For example, use clips, not nails.
  • Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving the house or going to bed.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Every home should have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, which should be tested monthly to ensure they’re functioning and the batteries are still good.
  • Illinois state law requires that carbon monoxide detectors be installed within 15 feet of each sleeping area in homes and apartments.  This requirement is similar to one already in effect for smoke detectors.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Never use a gas or charcoal grill inside your home or attached garage.
For more information about fire safety, visit the OSFM website at www.state.il.us/osfm.
The Keep Warm Illinois website (www.keepwarm.illinois.gov) offers various no-cost and low-cost energy saving tips, a web-based tool to conduct a home energy audit, links to energy assistance programs and other resources.  In addition, the Keep Warm Illinois hotline (1-877-411-WARM) is another resource for Illinois residents to learn how to save energy and get energy assistance.


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