The American Red Cross had a busy month in February assisting people following house fires.
According to the Red Cross, since Feb. 1 they assisted more than 1,000 people following over 300 fires throughout the Missouri-Arkansas region. About 250 of the people assisted in that time were in the area covered by the Red Cross of Greater Kansas City and Northwest Missouri.
Angie Springs, a Red Cross spokeswoman, said extreme cold temperatures during the month played a factor in the number of fires, and it’s something they’ve come to expect each year.
“Now year after year, that is typically where we track during the cold months, so it’s something that we prepare for every day, know that we are ready to respond, we have staff and volunteers that are ready to help families when they find themselves faced with nothing after a home fire,” Springs said.
A common factor in many fires during the coldest months of the year is the use of alternative heating methods.
“Weather gets brutally cold, families turn to alternative sources of heating typically to warm their homes, whether that is having extra space heaters or plugging in a furnace you haven’t used in a long time or that wood-burning fireplace,” she said. “Whatever the case may be, that’s typically when we see an increase in home fires.”
Springs said people need to keep in mind a three-foot rule around any space heaters.
But now winter weather is moving behind us, Springs said people need to be thinking of other fire prevention methods.
“As it warms up it’s a great time to have your heating sources checked. Change out those filters, make sure it’s running efficiently,” she said. “It’s also a great time to make sure that you have a working smoke alarm. Test those batteries in your smoke alarm.”
Springs added that when a smoke detector goes off during a fire, occupants typically have less than two minutes to get out.