Weather Forecast


Fires most likely during last week of year

Willmar firefighters work Jan. 8, 2007, to contain an attic fire at 412 Ann St. S.E. in Willmar. Although people need to always take the necessary precautions, fires are most likely between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day. Tribune file photo

ST. PAUL -- The last week of the year is when there are typically more fires than any other week of the year. Therefore, the state Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division is warning Minnesotans to be extra careful. Locally, Kandiyohi Fire Chief Dwight Ryks is echoing those concerns.

Ryks warns that with challenging economic times, he's afraid folks will use inappropriate methods in attempts to heat their homes.

"When the economy is bad, people use alternative fuels," he said Wednesday. Examples include starting to burn wood, even if they don't know how to tend a wood stove and have a bad chimney that hasn't been used in years or using the kitchen stove to try to heat the house because the propane tank is empty.

Last year, Ryks and other Kandiyohi firefighters were called to a fire at a trailer home where the residents were using a propane burner, like those used to heat fish houses, inside the home. The burner came in contact with blankets and resulted in a house fire.

In a typical year, there are one or two house fires in the area during the holiday season, possible due to unattended candles, cooking fires and portable heaters.

"It's the worst time of the year to lose a house," he said.

That's what has happened recently in the Twin Cities, where two residential fires and one commercial fire as the state fire marshal division concerned. Cooking, candles, decorations and fireplaces are the main culprits in residential fires, according to Becki White, deputy state fire marshal.

No one was killed in the recent fires and White says Minnesota remains on pace to report the fewest fire deaths on record. There have been 32 deaths reported so far in 2009, compared with 52 at this same time last year. The fewest deaths recorded were in 2007 when 40 people lost their lives in fire related incidents.

"We want everyone to enjoy the holidays so we're simply reminding people to take extra precautions," White said in a press release. "Unfortunately, fires are common this time of the year. We don't want the New Year to start out tragically for any family in Minnesota."

Typically, there are more fires between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day than any other week of the year. Last year there were 205 fires in Minnesota during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day -- that's 50 percent more fires than a typical week. Nearly 3,800 fires have occurred during the last week of the year since 1989.

The DPS State Fire Marshal Division officers offer these reminders. Most holiday fires are preventable by following these simple safety tips:

? Never leave cooking unattended. Grease fires can flash in mere seconds. Clear the stovetop of paper, dishtowels and other flammable material, and keep children away from the stove. Always have the pot or skillet lid nearby as you cook -- as a pan fire can be smothered with a tight-fitting lid.

? Remove flammable objects -- including decorations -- from the mantle when the fireplace is in use. Follow package directions if synthetic logs are used, and never burn wrapping paper in the fireplace. It burns so quickly, it can be hard to control and may ignite creosote in the chimney.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

(320) 214-4373