Red Cross responded to 25 fires in January

Friday, February 7, 2014 | 2:33 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Volunteers at the American Red Cross Heart of Missouri Chapter responded to 25 fires in January. The chapter covers a total of 21 counties, including Boone.

"I don't know that it is unusual for this particular time of year," said Phillip Iman, Heart of Missouri Chapter disaster specialist.

"What causes it (the fires) is the cold weather," he said. "People are trying every way they can to stay warm, and some of those methods cause the fires."

The Boone County Fire Protection District responded to 21 structure fires between November 2013 and January 2014; the number was 29 between November 2012 and January 2013. So, the number of fires hasn't been out of the ordinary, said Capt. Martina Pounds of the Fire District.

In Columbia, the number of fires so far this winter has not been unusual either, said Columbia Fire Department Battalion Chief Brad Fraizer.

The Columbia Fire Department responded to 12 structure fires this past December and January compared to 22 fires between December 2012 and January 2013. The total estimated damage from the fires this year is "certainly noteworthy," at an estimated total of $138,450, Fraizer said.

Some of the causes of the fires include overworking home appliances or misusing heating sources, including electrical and wood stoves, or even gas furnaces, Iman said. Wood stoves should be cleaned regularly, and extension cords should not be overloaded or used when worn out.

The Red Cross also warns against keeping items such as paper, clothing and bedding any closer than three feet from stoves, fireplaces and heaters. Heating appliances should also never be left unattended, and all fires should be extinguished before residents leave home or go to bed.

"Sometimes we just forget because we're trying to take care of our families and make sure they're warm," Iman said. "Just look at what you're doing because the consequences could be deadly."

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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