GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – More home fires occur during the winter months than in any other season with half of all home heating fires happening in December, January and February.

Michael McLeeier from E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety joined the eightWest team to talk about how we can stay safe this winter.

For more information and resources, visit

As the temperatures drop, people tend to resort to using space heaters and other methods to heat their homes and businesses, but they need to play it safe and prevent a home fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Michael McLeieer, president and founder of E.S.C.A.P.E. spoke with WLNS TV 6FOX 17 TV, WBKB TV and WKZO AM 590 and FM 106.9 radio this week and shared some simple but important tips and resources to prevent a home fire and increase your chances of surviving a fire should it occur.


FOX 17 TV:

WKZO Radio:

WBKB TV (Alpena, MI):

Here are a couple of links to some free resources and tips to prevent winter home fires from the National Fire Protection Association

and United States Fire Administration



Winter is just beginning and people are at greater risk for home fires during this time of year. In 2015, there were 103 home fire deaths throughout Michigan. A large number of those fatalities occurred in West Michigan. Since January 1, 2016, at least six people have already died in home fires in Michigan.

We have already experienced winter storms that left homes and businesses without electricity, leaving us to find alternative ways to heat our homes. Whenever we use alternative heating methods we increase the risk of having a home fire or exposing ourselves to dangerous carbon monoxide.

Portable Heaters Need Space

Space heaters cause one-third of home heating fires and four out of five home heating fire deaths. Protect your family: if you’re heating your home with a portable heater, fireplace, or woodstove this winter, take a few moments to review these safety tips.Space Heater Safety

  • Keep anything that can burn, such as bedding, clothing and curtains at least three feet away from a fireplace, wood stove, or space heater.
  • Make sure the heater has an automatic shut-off, so if it tips over, it shuts off.
  • Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
  • Plug portable heaters directly into outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip.
  • Only use portable heaters from a recognized testing laboratory.

Carbon Monoxide: The Invisible Killer

On average, more than 150 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning occurring from products and equipment in their home. Carbon Monoxide (CO) is odorless, colorless, and otherwise undetectable to the human senses and people may not know that they are being exposed.

The key to protecting your family is to be aware of the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Learn more about the dangers of carbon monoxide and ways you can remain safe.

  • CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes or standards.
  • Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Test the CO alarm monthly and replace alarms that are over five years old. Newer alarms last as long as ten years.
  • If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move everyone to a fresh air location outdoors.  Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for outside. Call 911 from a safe location once outside.
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow and ice build-up.
  • During a power outage, a generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors, and vent openings.
  • Have your heating system serviced regularly by a licensed professional.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.

Free Resources

Operation Save A Life is a partnership between WOTV 4 Women, Kidde Fire Safety, West Michigan fire departments and E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety. The goal of this program is to provide free smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to area fire departments where they will be installed in high risk homes. For more information about Operation Save A Life, contact your local fire department or e-mail

E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety reminds you by using common sense and following these simple yet important tips, everyone in your home will keep warm and safe this winter season Where You Live!


State Fire Marshal Richard Miller urges extreme caution as deadly home fires are on the rise in Michigan this winter. These fires are often due to careless smoking, unattended candles, space heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces, or faulty electrical wiring.

“Just two weeks into 2015, and we’re already seeing an increase in the number of home fires and related fatalities,” said Miller. “We’re especially seeing more fires in modular or mobile homes and apartments, injuring or taking the lives of children and the elderly, as residents look to alternative sources of heat to try and keep warm.”

Miller said to keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from any type of heat source or equipment such as a fireplace, wood burning stove or portable space heater.

“All of these methods of heating may be acceptable, but are major contributing factors in residential fires,” said Miller. “Simple precautions can prevent deadly consequences.”

Whether living in a single family dwelling, apartment, or mobile home, make sure it is well-equipped with multiple, working smoke alarms in sleeping and living areas; interconnect them so when one alarm sounds, they all sound. Test smoke alarms at least once a month and replace batteries at least once a year. Never remove or disable alarms. Make sure the kids and elderly in your home know the sound of the alarm.

Have a home fire escape plan that the entire family has practiced that includes two, easy ways out of every room and an outside meeting place. Make sure you can open and get out of windows and doors.

Have a licensed electrician inspect the electrical system to be sure it is safe and meets the applicable Michigan Electrical Code requirements. Have the furnace inspected to ensure controls and emergency shutoffs are working properly.

Other fire safety tips include:

  • Never use a range or oven to heat your home. Along with being a potential fire hazard, it can be a source of potentially toxic fumes.
  • If buying a space heater, make sure it has an automatic shut-off switch. Never use it in the bathroom or other areas where it may come in contact with water. Keep the kids and pets a safe distance away and turn it off when leaving a room or going to bed.
  • Have smokers smoke outside the home.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container.
  • Never leave candles burning in an unoccupied room.
  • In the event of a power outage, portable generators should only be used outside and away from buildings, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Clear snow away from all exterior doors so you can get out fast in the event of an emergency.
  • Clear away snow from fire hydrants so they are clearly visible.

According to Miller, the peak time for home fire fatalities is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. when most families are sleeping.

“When a fire occurs, get out quick and stay out. Escape first, closing doors behind you if possible. Quickly gather at your meeting place and then notify the fire department by calling 9-1-1 from a safe location,” said Miller. “Your firefighters are specially trained and equipped to rescue your family and pets, as well as to protect your possessions. Help your firefighters by remaining together outside the home and directing them to endangered family.”

For more information on fire safety during the winter months, visit the following websites:
E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire and Safety
The United States Fire Administration
The National Fire Protection Association