Red Cross sees uptick in fire victims as US enters winter heating season

The American Red Cross estimates that seven people are killed each day from home fires

The American Red Cross says they’ve seen a significant increase in home fires as temperatures have dropped around the country.

The non-profit reports around 17,000 fire victims sought help during October, an 18 percent increase from the previous month.

"As temperatures drop, the Red Cross sees more families in need of comfort and care after home fire tragedies," said Jennifer Pipa, vice president of the Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services.

Meteorologists say temperatures were moderate for most of the country during the start of the winter heating season in October but quickly tapered off as storm systems helped usher in cooler air.

Experts say some of the first heating devices people turn to when temperatures drop can be the most dangerous.

The National Fire Protection Association reports space heaters, fireplaces and chimneys are responsible for the majority of the nearly 48,000 house fires that happen each year due to the failure of heating devices.

NFPA says the uptick in heating fires usually peaks during January and leads to more than $1 billion of property damage each year.


"We implore everyone to practice their home fire escape plan and test their smoke alarms this weekend as our clocks turn back," Pipa said.

In addition to checking smoke alarms, the National Association of State Fire Marshals suggests:

  • keeping heaters at least three feet away from flammable items
  • never leave a heating device alone
  • make sure the heater, fireplace, or wood stove isn’t active when you head to bed