Fire safety, maintenance pertinent for heating equipment during cold months

Error message

  • Warning: array_merge(): Expected parameter 1 to be an array, bool given in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 133 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to get property 'settings' of non-object in _simpleads_adgroup_settings() (line 343 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/
  • Warning: array_merge(): Expected parameter 1 to be an array, bool given in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 157 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in include() (line 24 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/templates/simpleads_ajax_call.tpl.php).

A chicken coop at a residence in Prairie du Chien caught fire next to the garage. The Fire Department responded to put out the flames. The fire caused approximately $2,000 in damage before it was neutralized. (Submitted photo)

Even in cold temperatures, heat lamps and other heating devices can cause fires through the degradation of wood and paper products or in surrounding materials. Heating devices have become more prevalent in the Prairie du Chien community. (Submitted photos)

The post-holiday winter is prime time for home, structure fires

The picture showed a twisted pile of melted together cage and charred wood. Next to it the siding on a garage dripped off the exterior wall, exposing the frame underneath. In another photo, a chicken coup burned under an orange flame that licked at the open air and sucked in oxygen to feed upon.

“People don’t think of fires like this in a little outdoor structure or a chicken coup,” Tad Beutin, The City of Prairie du Chien Fire Chief, said. The owner of the coop and garage incurred approximately $2,000 in damages. “It could’ve been a lot worse if the wind had been in a different direction.”

The cause of the fire: heat lamps.

Beutin said heat lamps have become more prevalent in Prairie du Chien; they’re used in chicken coops, the underbellies of mobile trailers, crawl spaces and on plumbing to prevent pipes from freezing. Heating devices like heat tape and cables have grown in popularity for winterizing pipes as well.

“It’s very common; we’re seeing it throughout the city, and people don’t know the dangers,” Beutin stated. He said a heat lamp can get to 250-400 watts and paper or wood used in coutdoor structures like chicken coops dry out from exposure to the light, reducing the burning temperature. “Every time you use the heat lamps, it [paper] will degrade a little more and more until it’s degraded to a point where they’re going to combust.”

Heat lamps, along with other heating equipment such as portable heaters, generators, furnaces, chimneys and fire places, have contributed to fatal and damaging fires each year. Based on data (2017-19) released by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), portable heaters contributed to an estimated 1,700 fires, 70 deaths and 160 injuries per year while furnaces, fireplaces and chimneys were associated with an estimated 15,800 fires, 20 deaths and 50 injures per year.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Home Heating Fire Report, through data acquired from local fire departments, estimated 44,210 home structure fires were caused by heating equipment yearly (based on data between 2016-2020) with an average of 480 fatalities, 1,370 injured and $1 billion in direct property damage. And 46 percent of house fires happened between November-January.

And then there are Christmas trees.

“A Christmas tree is a really aggressive fire,” Beutin stated. “They tell you, once you set a Christmas tree on fire, you don’t just put it out; you’ve got a room and content fire at minimum.”

According to a release by the NFPA, 150 house fires per year are started by Christmas trees, and 34 percent of those fires occur in January. After the holidays, trees are often susceptible to neglect, a dry environment and an enclosed location with radiant heat.

The NFPA and CPSC list numerous ways to prevent fire hazards and mitigate condition favorable for a fire to ignite and proliferate inside homes and other structures: substitute flashlights for candles in emergency situations, have furnaces and other home heating professionally inspected each year, perform necessary maintenance seasonally to monitor condition of equipment, maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in suggested locations and check batteries monthly.

“There’s so much this time of year: Christmas trees, heating devices, enclosing your house more so carbon monoxide can build up a little more,” Beutin said. “This is the time of year we [Fire Departments and professionals] are most concerned about.”

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (2 votes)