Fire dept. warns of holiday fire risks

December 13, 2011 (CHICAGO)

A woman was critically injured in a house fire on the city's Southwest Side. The fire broke out just after midnight. Police say a space heater may have started the blaze.

"This is our most dangerous time for fires in the cold weather. This last weekend we've had two fire deaths within a three day period," said Chicago Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff. "The main cause of that is smoke detectors not being activated."

Space heaters are a large cause of deadly fires - they need to be monitored and kept at least three feet away from combustible materials. Space heaters should be turned off at night.

"48 percent of those fire deaths were with no working smoke detectors," said Hoff.

Members of the Quinn Fire Academy and public information unit demonstrated how quickly a room can go up in flames. It only took six-and-a-half minutes for a demonstration fire to engulf a room.

"Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, tasteless - you're going to succumb to those fumes and not even know what happened. So to spend the few dollars to go get a carbon monoxide detector is really important," said Hoff.

As a young girl, I was in a fire, but fortunately my dad acted quickly - he busted the windows and forced us to jump out. It's something you never quite forget, and it doesn't take long for a home to go up in flames.

A fire can start with faulty wiring and Christmas lights, trees not properly maintained and watered. Extension cords running under carpets, a faulty furnace, or a plugged exhaust flue can kill you.

"It is important to keep them right outside the bedrooms - because a lot of times at night, people will close their bedroom door, so the smoke alarm goes off, if you only in the basement and you sleep upstairs, you may not hear it," said Hoff.

The commissioner stressed to not leave matches, lighters and candles unattended, especially around children, because they are curious.

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