West Michigan has seen its share of snow and brutally cold weather this winter season and the threat of winter home fires and personal injury are real.  As you stay cozy and warm this winter season, be fire smart and use some common sense. 

Did you know home fires occur more in the winter months than any other time of the year?  Half of all home heating fires occur in the months of December, January and February.  According to the United States Fire Administration, heating is the second leading cause of home fires following cooking and more than 900 people die annually in winter home fires across the United States.  Home heating fires peaked in the early evening hours between 5 and 9 p.m.  This four-hour period accounted for 30 percent of all home heating fires.

Also, the risk of having a heart attack and stroke increases during the winter months due to overexertion when shoveling, pushing a car or walking in deep snow.  Take frequent breaks or ask a neighbor, family member or friend to shovel your driveway or sidewalk.

Here are some simple and important safety tips to help prevent winter home fires:

  • Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet from all heat sources including fireplaces, wood stoves, radiators, space heaters or candles.
  • Never use an oven to heat your home, especially during a power outage.
  • Turn space heaters off and unplug them when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Consider using flameless candles or battery powered flashlights if the power goes out.
  • Never use an extension cord or power strip with a space heater.  Always plug the device directly into a wall outlet and after 10 or 15 minutes of use, feel the cord and outlet.  If either are warm, discontinue use of the heater.
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected each year by a licensed or certified professional.
  • Clear snow drifts from furnace exhausts and air intakes to prevent deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home.  Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and invisible gas produced from heating and cooking equipment, vehicles and portable generators.
  • Test your smoke alarms monthly, change non long-life batteries annually and replace alarms over 10 years old.
  • Help your local firefighters by shoveling a 3-foot circle of snow and ice away from the nearest fire hydrant.



And consider following these cold weather safety tips:

  • Check on your neighbors as well as family and friends who are at risk and may need additional assistance during this dangerous cold spell.
  • Watch pets closely and keep them indoors when possible. Animals can suffer from hypothermia, frostbite and other cold-weather injuries.
  • Be aware of children playing in the streets, particularly climbing on or running out from behind large snowdrifts. Parents should remind their children to be aware of plowing operations and traffic and avoid these dangerous areas.
  • Be aware of the hazards of wind chill.  As the winter wind speed increases and the outdoor temperature drops, heat is carried away from a person’s body more rapidly, which will lead to severe hypothermia.  Wind chill indices are forecasted to range from -22 to -48 degrees below zero Fahrenheit on Wednesday January 30th causing exposed skin to freeze in a matter of minutes.
  • Signs of hypothermia includes uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, drowsiness and exhaustion.
  • Signs of frostbite include loss of feeling or pale appearance of fingers, toes or the face.
  • Stay indoors if possible.  If you must go outside, wear protective clothing, such as hats, mittens, gloves, scarf and a warm coat.

By following these precautions, you will keep everyone in your family safe and secure Where You Live!


Like fire, carbon monoxide (CO) is just as deadly.  It’s called the silent killer because it’s colorless, odorless and invisible.  More than 400 people in the United States die every year from accidental nonfire-related CO poisoning associated with consumer products, including generators.  When you breathe in CO, it makes you feel nauseas, dizzy, headachy, and tired like you have the flu.  It also makes it difficult to think clearly.  CO poisons the body by removing oxygen in the blood stream, slowing suffocating you and eventually causing unconsciousness and even death.

On Tuesday January 23, 2019 a Walker Michigan family called the Walker Fire Department to report their Kidde carbon monoxide alarm, which was installed in early April of 2018 by the fire department through the WOTV 4 Women Operation Save A Life program, was alarming and they were unable to reset it.  The caller indicated no one in her family was experiencing any symptoms.  However, she did indicate that her son had not been feeling well but they figured he was just catching a cold from school.

Upon arrival by a Walker fire engine crew, it was determined the heat exchanger in the family’s furnace was malfunctioning and was the cause of the alarm activation as well as the son’s symptoms.

Another family is saved thanks to the strong work by the members of the Walker Fire Department!

Walker OSAL CO Alarm Family

Where does CO come from?

Heating equipment is the leading cause of CO incidents. It can also come from hot water heaters, gas stoves, gas dryers, barbecue grills, fireplaces, kerosene heaters, and from cars, lawn mowers, snow blowers or generators running inside the garage – even with the door open. A large number of CO incidents take place between the months of November and February and between 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. This is the time when most heating equipment is being used at home.

Facts & figures

  • The dangers of CO exposure depend on a number of variables, including the victim’s health and activity level. Infants, pregnant women, and people with physical conditions that limit their body’s ability to use oxygen (i.e. emphysema, asthma, heart disease) can be more severely affected by lower concentrations of CO than healthy adults would be.
  • A person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time.
  • More than 20,000 people visit emergency rooms across the U.S. and more than 4,000 are hospitalized each year.

What can you do?

  • Install a CO alarm on every level of your home.  Replace alarms that are over five years old.
  • Never use a generator inside the home or attached garage.
  • Have a licensed contractor inspect and service your gas-fired heating and cooking appliances at least annually.



What to do if you suspect CO exposure

• Get out of the house or car and get fresh air.
• Call the fire department or 911 from a neighbor’s house.
• If you have symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

For more information on carbon monoxide safety, please visit the National Fire Protection Association or the United States Fire Administration websites.