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Put a Freeze on Fatal Fires This Winter

The tragic deaths of two young boys from Lawrence several weeks ago, caused by a fast-moving electrical fire in their family’s apartment, marked the 47th and 48th fire fatalities in Massachusetts this year. With the first wave of winter weather this weekend, more and more residents are beginning to bundle up and turn on their homes’ heat and wood stoves. While residential fires naturally rise during this part of the year, often more common than fire emergencies are non-fire carbon monoxide emergencies. At Altman & Altman, we’d like to send out a reminder to all residents of the steps they can take to prevent such a tragic accident from occurring in their homes.

Facts and Statistics

Currently in Massachusetts the number of deaths caused by fire-related accidents, stands at 48. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the leading causes of residential fires include:

– Appliances and equipment; including those used for cooking and heating, washing machines and dryers, air conditioners and fans, and more.
– Arson and juvenile fire setting; children playing with fire and intentional fires – Candles – Chemicals and gases; natural gas and gases that might cause spontaneous combustion – Faulty electrical wiring – Holiday decorations including Christmas trees and holiday lights – Smoking materials (i.e.; cigarettes, hookah, etc.)

In addition to literal fire emergencies, many residents fall victim to the odorless killer, carbon monoxide. Between 2006 and 2010, according to the NFPA, municipal fire departments responded to an average of more than 72,000 calls of carbon monoxide incidents.

How You Can Prevent A Fire Emergency

Since most fire emergencies are the cause of human error, we’d like to remind you of the simple, yet lifesaving steps you can take to prevent an accident in your own home.

1. Winter-proof your home: Starting at square one is your first step; if you’re living in an area at a high risk for severe winter weather, like most of us in New England, you should start winter-proofing your house by making sure your windows and doors are winter-ready. Make sure they have enough weather stripping and insulation so they do not let in cold drafts. Ensure the rest of your home, including your attic, is also properly insulated. Additionally, it is important now (as painful as it might be) to start ridding gutters of excess leaves and gunk that might otherwise cause ice melt and refreeze on your roof’s edge and cause an injury should it fall off on someone.

2. Operate heating equipment safely: Hot cocoa and a warm blanket surely won’t cut it when the temperature dips below freezing. Often, people turn to space heaters and fireplaces to keep warm, yet its imperative that they’re used correctly. Space heaters, though efficient, are not meant to support heating an entire dwelling. With that said, they should only be used during short intervals of time and not be left on overnight. If using a space heater, ensure that they are not placed near furniture or drapery that could catch fire. Fireplaces and chimneys should routinely be cleaned out to prevent leftover debris from catching fire.

3. Install smoke detectors and CO2 detectors in every room: This usually goes without saying, but one of the easiest ways to prevent a fatality should there be a fire or CO2 emergency, is to have the proper detecting equipment installed. If you’re not sure of which fire detector to get you may call your local fire department for help. Detectors should be installed in every single room with working batteries that should be changed annually or as needed.

4. Have a fire plan: Planning an escape route with your family and children is an important step to be fire ready this year. Should a fire emergency occur, it’s imperative that your family and children know how to get out of the house safely and how to call 9-1-1.

5. Flashlights & Candles: Always remember to use a flashlight for emergency lighting as opposed to candles. Lighting candles during the holidays is common; make sure that candles are lit only when someone is in the room and never leave them lit overnight, as this could cause an unintended fire.

In addition to human error being a leading cause of accidental fires, faulty products can also be culprits. In Massachusetts, the dedicated professionals at Altman & Altman have nearly fifty years of experience handling all types of personal injury cases including products liability and premises liability.

If you or a loved one was injured in an accident, which you believe was caused by a faulty product or because of someone else’s negligence, call our law firm today for a free initial case evaluation with one of our esteemed attorneys to discuss whether you may be eligible to file a personal injury claim. All consultations are completely free and confidential, and our attorneys are available around the clock to assist you with any legal questions or concerns.