City fire officials hoping to avoid winter home fires | WYPR

City fire officials hoping to avoid winter home fires

Dec 15, 2017

Baltimore Fire Lieutenant Hennrietta Ott talks tips to make your holidays safer.
Credit Dominique Maria Bonessi

Early Wednesday morning a fire broke out in a row home in the 700 block of East Cold Spring Lane in Northeast Baltimore. It killed two children, four and five, and an adult. Fire Chief Niles Ford said firefighters could not determine the cause of the fire, but said winter fires are common. He told WYPR how residents can protect their homes from those fires.

Prior to the fire in Northeast Baltimore, Chief Ford told his firefighters he hoped they could get past Christmas without a house fire.

"And they said us, too, Chief. So we were doing pretty well, but when it gets cold like this it becomes a challenge for the community," he said.

While the cause of that fire remains under investigation , Ford said that generally the winter months are the worst for fires in the home. So far this year there have been 25 fire fatalities in the city.

“I think the big thing historically been people trying to stay warm," said Ford.

The department has put out a series of YouTube videos complete with holiday music that Ford says he hopes will prevent winter fires. In one video, Fire Inspector Kevin Williams quotes some statistics. 


“Each year fire claims the life of 3400 Americans, injures 17000, and causes billions of dollars of damage," he says.

As nighttime temperatures drop into the 20s, and wind chill factors fall even farther, many people use space heaters, fire places, and even ovens to stay warm. But firefighters say you have to take some precautions.

“First, all heating equipment needs space. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away," says Williams. "Supervise children whenever a space heater or wood stove is being used.”

For those with fireplaces "chimney builds up creosote, and needs to be cleaned and inspected frequently by a licensed professional.”

For those decking the halls for the holiday season, the department’s Lieutenant Hennrietta Ott has some tips in another YouTube video.

“The Christmas tree serves as a center piece for our festivities and takes us back to memories of Christmas past," says Ott. "The last thing you want to do is create a new memory about the year of the Christmas tree fire.”

She says to be sure to buy a freshly cut tree and give it plenty of water. If you prefer an artificial tree, be sure it is flame retardant. And never put your tree near a heat source. Next come the lights on the tree. Be sure to "examine your lights for frayed wires and loose sockets."

When it comes to lighting up your house for the holiday season the department suggests "avoid using the larger seven volt light bulbs.”

While they may be brighter, they heat up to much higher temperatures than LED lights, and can cause dry needles to spark.

Chief Ford says he hopes the videos and sending firefighters door-to-door to help people with fire safety in their homes can "put the fire service out of the fire service business.”

There are more tips on the department’s Twitter and Facebook pages, and if you have a question about something in your home call the Fire Marshall’s office at 410-396-5752.