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Billings firefighters give tips to prevent house fires in the winter

Posted at 6:07 PM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-05 20:07:09-05

BILLINGS — Fire safety doesn’t immediately jump to mind in the winter season, but it’s important to remember the do’s and don’ts.

As the temperature drops, Billings firefighters say that the risk of fires heats up.

“You can have a home fire that reaches a flash-over point, say in the living room in two to three minutes,” said Billings Fire Battalion Chief Kevin Bentz.

There’s not much you can do in two to three minutes.

“You know it’s an unsurvivable situation at that point,” Bentz said.

The leading cause of household fires in the winter is space heaters, Bentz said.

He recommends having a new and up-to-date space heater. Many older models don’t have a fail switch that will turn off if the heater gets knocked over.

“If there are any combustibles that come in contact with especially older space heaters, they are more likely to ignite a fire,” said Bentz.

There are other fire hazards in the home that can be dangerous on cold winter days, like wood-burning stoves or fireplaces.

“Maintenance is probably key to preventing fires with wood-burning stoves and fireplaces,” Bentz said.

Make sure your chimneys are free of creosote, as that will prevent chimney fires.

“That stuff can actually build up till it’s combustible and start to burn,” Bentz said.

Do not overfill your stove with wood, either.

“We recommend everybody have a fire extinguisher, especially in the area that you’re cooking,” said Bentz.

Fire extinguishers will need to be maintained because the powder inside will cake over time and it won’t discharge properly. Tapping the bottom of the canister will break up the powder so it doesn’t solidify.

Bentz also recommends checking your carbon monoxide and smoke alarms.

“Maybe an unknown problem with your chimney or something like that could back carbon monoxide up into your residence,” said Bentz.

All tips to stay safe while keeping warm on these frigid days of winter.