El Paso Red Cross: ‘The biggest disaster threat -- home fires’

El Paso Red Cross: ‘The biggest disaster threat -- home fires’

POSTED: Sunday, October 20, 2013 - 9:35pm

UPDATED: Sunday, October 20, 2013 - 9:37pm

The Red Cross helps thousands of families every year and every winter they respond to more house fires in the Borderland compared to any other disaster.

El Pasoans are bundling up as the nights get longer and the days get shorter. And if you're trying to stay warm in these conditions, here are some tips that will help you stay warm and safe.

A spark from a fireplace caused a trailer to burn down in February. Firefighters said at the time, it could have been prevented.

The Red Cross said they see many of these fires every time the temperature drops.

"The Red Cross responds to about 70,000 disasters every year and by far the largest number of those are home fires,” Mark Matthys, the Executive Director for Red Cross El Paso said. And they're hoping to educate the public on preventing house fires during the winter season. “Make sure people know how to stay safe, how to make a plan."

The West Valley Fire Department are also experts on preventing such fires. "Make sure you have your screens in front of the fire places,” Assistant Chief Boyd Smith told us. Another tip - use appliances for its true purpose. "There are people trying to use their ovens for, as heating devices, or their stoves for heating devices,” Boyd explained, "They're designed for cooking not for keeping warm."

And if you're still feeling a bit frosty, portable heaters can help. "The good one is going to be UL listed, is going to have the tip over protection to where if it does get knocked over it's not going to stay on."

Fire risks become more prevalent during the holiday season. "Plus, we do tend to overload our circuits a lot during the holiday season and the risk of fires just goes up dramatically at this time of year,” Matthys added.

And if you need more home fire prevention advice, turn to your child. During the month of October, the West Valley Fire Department and ‘Sparky the Dog’ are teaching school children about preventing cooking fires.

"We get to get the word out to the kids and the kids in turn bring it to the parents and we get the message out about fire safety,” Boyd said.

The American Red Cross also added that smoke detectors save lives and be sure to check your smoke detector every few months.

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