PUBLISHED: 4:02 PM on Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Home fires - what you need to know By Linda Wahl
The American Red Cross responded to more than 74,000 disasters in communities across the United States last year, of these, 93 percent were fire related.

Today the Red Cross is responding to 10 percent more home fires than six years ago and the average cost of a home fire is more than $17,000.

Eighty percent of Americans do not realize that home fires are the single most common disaster across the nation and only 26 percent of families have developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.

Fires kill more people each year than all other natural disasters combined and affect people from all walks of life. In 2006, a home fire was reported every 80 seconds, and a life was lost from a fire every 204 minutes. Children under the age of five and adults over 65 are more likely to die in a home fire than the rest of the US population.

So what can you do to prevent a home fire from occurring? Install working smoke alarms and test them on a monthly basis and be sure to change the batteries every six months. In 2005, 74 percent of home fires occurred in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

Cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries. Never leave cooking unattended, keep all paper, clothing and other flammable materials well away from the range and stove, two out of three fires begin in these two areas.

Heating fires are the second leading cause of home fires. If using alternative heating sources remember to keep curtains, rugs, paper and all other flammable material at least three feet away from heat source.

Make a plan. By developing a fire escape plan and practicing it, you give your family the best chance of escape (and survival) and yourself, a peace of mind.

To find out more information on creating a fire escape plan, visit the or call your local Red Cross at 463-5713.