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Fires common this time of year; KC-area firefighters answer why

KCFD on deadly fires
Posted at 10:57 PM, Jan 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-16 23:57:08-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City area has seen multiple fires throughout the body-numbing January cold snap.

The Kansas City, Missouri Fire Department said its crews have responded to 26 fires in the last 16 days.

Firefighters believe alternative heating sources are the main culprit in many cold weather fires.

Alternative heating means all the things you normally wouldn't resort to if it weren't so cold.

"A lot of times this time of year we see alternative means of heat," KCFD Battalion Chief Michael Hopkins said.

Hopkins says extremely cold weather tends to draw out the least safe home heating methods when people get desperate.

That means pulling out that old space heater you'd normally think twice about using or connecting the space heater to an extension cord to bring it a little closer.

It can also mean using a fireplace that's normally unused and hasn't been inspected.

"And people do fire up that fireplace that they normally haven't done in maybe years," Hopkins said. "But, it's this cold out, so they run down to QuikTrip and buy the bundle of wood just to have some heat in the house."

Another big risk is using an oven to heat a home when the normal home heating system isn't working well.

“This time of year, we usually see an uptick in fires anyways," he said. "With this particular cold snap, it’s been a little busier than even past years because it’s just so extremely cold."

He says wanting to stave off the cold is understandable, especially when traditional heating methods aren't keeping up, but he says if you're going to use space heaters, do it safely.

That means replacing an old space heater with a newer one with safety cutoffs, and never plugging the space heater into an extension cord. The cord can overheat under the heavy electrical load most heaters draw.