SFMO Reminds Tennesseans to Take Steps Today Stay Warm and Safe All Winter


Ahead of celebrating traditional winter holidays such as Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) is advising all homeowners to take some simple steps today to help ensure they stay warm and safe all season long.

During winter (which officially begins Thursday, Dec. 21), statistics show that fire deaths increase by 86%. While smoking is the leading known cause of residential fire deaths, cooking accounts for more than 25% of residential structure fires in Tennessee and almost 40% in the U.S. Separately, medical oxygen is a component of more than 10% of fire deaths in Tennessee over the last 10 years.

“Fires started by carelessness in the kitchen or smoking while using medical oxygen are especially tragic because they are so easily preventable,” said Assistant Commissioner for Fire Prevention Gary Farley. “This winter, I strongly urge Tennesseans to make fire safety foremost in their lives by reducing the dangerous behavior that puts themselves and emergency responders at risk.”

A homeowner’s first line of defense against home fires in any season is working smoke alarms. To help protect Tennesseans and save lives, the SFMO’s “Get Alarmed, Tennessee!” smoke alarm program is helping reduce risk from home fires.

Alarms installed through the “Get Alarmed” program now have 467 verified saves since the program began in 2012. Over 254,000 working smoke alarms have been distributed through this program to the SFMO’s fire service partners.

In addition to installing working smoke alarms this winter, homeowners can follow these simple fire safety tips, including:

  • Keep flammable items like blankets, rugs, or furniture at least three feet away from space heaters and wood stoves.
  • Never place your Christmas tree near heating equipment, fireplaces, candles, or other sources of heat. Always keep your Christmas tree watered to prevent the tree from drying out.
  • Practice a home fire escape plan with your family. Everyone should know two ways out of each room.
  • Always turn portable heaters off when leaving a room or going to bed.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys inspected every year.
  • Burn only dry, seasoned wood in fireplaces and wood stoves. Never burn garbage or use flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Make sure any fireplace has a sturdy screen to reduce the risk of flying sparks.
  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms at least once a month.
  • Install wood-burning stoves following manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional perform the installation. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If you smell gas coming from your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.

For more fire safety information, visit tn.gov/fire.

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