Michigan fire fatalities up 144% over same time last year – Tips for staying safe

Michigan fire-related deaths increased significantly in January 2022 compared to January 2021, according to the Bureau of Fire Services.

In the first 34 days of the year, 18 fires claimed 22 lives. This is a 144% increase compared to the same period in 2021.

Related: What to know about carbon monoxide poisoning

The state said these fires were accidental and could have been prevented.

“It’s important to talk about fire safety with our parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors and help them prepare their homes to be safer,” said Michigan Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer. “If I could send one message to everyone in Michigan, it would be to ‘get out and stay out’ as soon as possible if a fire breaks out in your home.”

Last year’s fires killed 107 people in Michigan. Of these deaths, 67% involved people over the age of 40.

Many fires broke out in the evening. Living rooms were the most common spaces where fires broke out, followed by bedrooms. The leading causes of fires in 2021 were smoking, heaters and fireplaces, and cooking.

Tips to prevent/increase your chances of surviving a fire:

• Clear snow from all exterior doors so you can get out quickly in an emergency.
• Make sure your home is equipped with multiple smoke alarms, including smoke alarms in each bedroom and one on each level of your home. Many newer smoke alarms can interconnect smoke alarms so that when one sounds, all smoke alarms sound.
• Install carbon monoxide (CO) detectors on every level of your home to warn you of high levels of CO.
• For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, consider installing smoke alarms that use a flashing light or bed vibrating device to alert them to a fire emergency.
• Ensure that each smoke detector is tested monthly and replace 9-volt batteries in smoke detectors at least once a year.
• Never remove or disable smoke alarms.
• Close your bedroom doors when you sleep to insulate yourself from fire, heat and toxic smoke.
• Make sure the children and elderly people in your home know the sound of the smoke alarm.
• Have a fire escape plan that the whole family has practiced that includes two exits from each room and a meeting place outside the house.
• Make sure you practice and can open and exit windows and doors.
• Dial 9-1-1 AFTER leaving your home if your smoke or carbon monoxide alarms go off.
• Never use the stove or oven as a source of heat for your home. The oven is not only a potential fire hazard, but it can also become a source of high levels of carbon monoxide.
Smoking safety tips:
• Smoking outside. Many things in your home can catch fire if they touch something hot like a cigarette or ashes. It is always safer to smoke outside.
• Never smoke in bed. Mattresses and bedding can easily catch fire. Don’t smoke in bed because you might fall asleep with a lit cigarette.
• Put cigarettes out completely. Do this every time. Stay away from lit cigarettes and other smoking items.
• Put water on ashes and cigarette butts to make sure they are completely extinguished before throwing them away.
• Extinguish cigarettes in an ashtray or bucket with sand.
• Use ashtrays with wide bases so they don’t tip over and start a fire.
• Do not smoke after taking medication that makes you tired. You may not be able to prevent or escape a fire if you are not vigilant.
• Never smoke near medical oxygen. Medical oxygen can explode if a flame or spark is nearby. Even if the oxygen is cut off, it can still catch fire.
Heater Safety:
• Place the heater on a hard, flat, non-flammable surface. These devices are intended to be placed on the floor and not on a table.
• Heaters should be plugged directly into an electrical outlet.
• Do not plug another electrical appliance or extension cord into the same outlet as a heater – this may cause overheating.
• Never use an extension cord with a space heater.
• Make sure your heater has an automatic shut-off switch.
• Keep children and pets one meter away from space heaters.
• Turn off heaters when you leave a room or go to bed.
• Keep furniture, blankets and other household items at least three feet from a heater.
Heating Safety Methods:
• Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions or have a wood stove installed by a professional. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to prevent carbon monoxide buildup inside the home.
• Clean chimneys do not catch fire. Make sure a professional chimney sweep inspects your solid fuel venting system every year and sweeps and repairs it whenever necessary.
• Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace to prevent flying embers or sparks.
• Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving your home.
• Put the ashes in a metal container with a lid, outside, at least 3 feet from your house.
• If you smell natural gas or propane near your gas furnace or heater, do not attempt to light the unit. Leave the house immediately, then dial 9-1-1 and ask the fire department and/or gas company to respond to your home.
• If you are using a space heater that requires kerosene or propane, always use the correct fuel specified by the manufacturer and take the heater outside the home to refuel or change tanks.
• Keep household furniture, blankets and other objects at least three feet away from fireplaces and wood stoves.

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