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The original item was published from 1/30/2019 10:14:50 AM to 2/10/2019 12:10:25 AM.

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Fire & Rescue

Posted on: January 30, 2019

[ARCHIVED] SFMO: Cold Weather Brings Increased Risk of Fire Deaths


January, February Remain the Deadliest Months for Fires in Tennessee

NASHVILLE – With most of the Volunteer State experiencing frigid temperatures this week, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) is reminding residents that decreasing temperatures bring an increased risk for fires and fire deaths.

When temperatures drop below 15°F, structure fires are twice as likely to occur than when temperatures remain above 32°F, according to state fire data and information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). For this reason, January and February are consistently the most deadly months of the year for accidental residential structure fire deaths in Tennessee.

“Fire safety isn’t seasonal, but winter brings its own hazards and safety concerns,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak. “By taking a few simple precautions now such as checking your smoke alarms to ensure they’re working and having an fire escape plan, Tennesseans can help keep their families fire-safe all winter.”

To help combat fire dangers associated with winter weather, the SFMO shares the following tips:


  • Keep anything that can burn at least three-feet away from heating equipment, like fireplaces, wood stoves, and portable space heaters.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Turn off portable heaters before leaving home or going to bed.
  • If you use a wood-burning stove:

    • Make sure your stove is listed by a qualified testing laboratory.
    • Burn only dry, seasoned hardwood.
    • Place stoves on a non-combustible, fire-resistant base.
    • Remove ashes regularly. Let them cool before disposing of them in a metal container that is kept at least 10 feet away from buildings or vehicles.
    • Check for damage or cracks in the stove’s exterior masonry, glass, metal, or flue.


  • If you smoke, smoke outside. Most fire deaths caused by cigarettes start in the living room, family room, or bedroom after people fall asleep while smoking.
  • Keep cigarettes, lighters, and matches out of reach of children.
  • Do not discard cigarettes in combustible materials like mulch, potted plants or landscaping, a trash can, or other things that can ignite easily.
  • NEVER smoke where medical oxygen is present. Medical oxygen can cause materials to ignite more easily and make fires burn hotter and faster.


  • Never run electricity or extension cords from one structure to another.
  • Never modify a building to fit a flue or exhaust pipe.
  • As a reminder, it is against state law to modify a ready removable structure for use as a residential, recreational, or emergency housing in Tennessee.


  • Ensure you have working smoke alarms inside each sleeping area, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of your home.
  • Replace smoke alarms that are 10 years old or older.
  • Many Tennessee fire departments offer free smoke alarms and installations. Contact your local fire department today to request a free alarm installation.
  • Don’t forget to have and practice a home fire escape plan. You can download a free grid on the SFMO’s website.
  • Close your bedroom door at night before going to bed. In the event of a fire, a closed door can slow the spread of flames and toxic smoke.

For more tips on keeping you and your family fire safe, visit

About the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance: TDCI protects the interests of consumers while providing fair, efficient oversight and a level field of competition for a broad array of industries and professionals doing business in Tennessee. Our divisions include the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Insurance, Securities, Consumer Affairs, Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy, Regulatory Boards, Tennessee Emergency Communications Board, Tennessee Corrections Institute, and TennCare Oversight.

To check a license of a professional regulated by the Department, go to