Home Fires more deadly in the wintertime

By: Melissa Tune Email
By: Melissa Tune Email

News 12 at 11 o'clock, November 23, 2010

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Each year, more than a half million winter fires cause about a billion dollars in property loss, hundreds of deaths, and thousands of injuries. Heating and cooking are the leading causes of winter fires and January is the worst month for fire deaths and injuries in the home. This week alone, Richmond County firefighters have dealt with almost a dozen blazes.
News 12 looked at what makes the season so dangerous.

"It was devastating, my son had just refurbished his whole house, " said Stella Amelung.

All that's left of her son's home is ashes. It burned down last Saturday.

"He's got his family but he lost everything totally in that fire,"added Amelung.

Sadly house fires are more common this time of the year during the winter months. From December to March, the two leading causes of residential fires are heating and cooking. Stella's son was just trying to warm his house.

"He said it was a green log that he thought would burn up quick but it didn't said Amelung. "It fell out at 6am."

Lt.Neal Brown with the Richmond County Fire Department is used to seeing the spike.

"I've had five fires in three days, but I have had more than those,"said Brown. "This time of the year, it's pretty much right on track. Probably the biggest cause we have during the cool weather months, it's going to space heaters, either left unattended or too close to combustible materials."

The United States Fire Administration says fires in one and two-family dwellings account for 67 percent of all winter residential building fires.Most home fires happen in the early evening hours, peaking from 5 to 8 p.m too. The winter months can also put an enormous strains on a firefighter's abilities and their injuries go up too.

"The firefighters are taking a pretty good beating with the fires that's going on, however they are spread over several shifts," said Brown.

Stella is trying now to get help for her son who lost it all. She says with the holidays here they're just hoping the community will pull together and help.

"I hope and pray that people will help during this holiday season and hopefully the kids can have a home by Christmas," said Amelung.

A winter fire can certainly put a financial strain on families, especially near the holidays. There is is a donation relief fund set up to help Stella Amelungs' son. For more information: contact any Wells Fargo bank and ask for the "Forest Mitchell Catastrophe Fund."

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 newsroom@wrdw.com Fax: (803) 442-4561
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