Colder weather means huddling around the fireplace and cranking up the heat.
But authorities warn that as temperatures go down the threat of house fires goes up.
A chimney fire last week in Thibodaux serves as a reminder of the dangers associated with house fires during the winter, authorities said.
The Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department was called out around 6:14 p.m. Thursday to the 100 block of Belmont Drive after a chimney caught on fire, authorities said.
When fire crews arrived, flames were billowing out of the top of the chimney, authorities said. The house was evacuated, and firefighters used ground and roof ladders to reach the top of the chimney to extinguish the blaze.
Minor damage was reported and residents returned home about an hour later, the fire department said. No injuries were reported.
The fireplace had been lit for about two hours, according to Benton Foret, Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department assistant fire chief.
“Thankfully it wasn’t more serious than what it ended up being, but it’s certainly something we hope everyone gives consideration to,” Foret said. “We want to encourage everyone that before you light a fire in the fireplace to inspect it to make sure there are no obstructions that could catch on fire over time.”
Although the damage in Thursday’s fire was minimal, officials said it could have been much worse. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, about 890 people die in house fires each winter.
“We do see an uptick in alarms during cooler weather,” Foret said. “Heaters have sat idle all season long and may have developed dust or possibly insects. When those things start up for the first time, any dust or insect nests can smoke or smolder in there, and that sometimes triggers alarms.
“So far 52 Louisiana residents have died in house fires this year,” the State Fire Marshal’s Office said.
Although that number is lower than the 60 during this time last year, fire officials are asking all residents to have working smoke alarms in their homes and memorize an escape route.
Bayou Cane Fire Chief Ken Himel said smoke alarms save lives and are the most inexpensive life insurance policy residents can buy.
“If you have gas-fired heating equipment, make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors,” Himel said. “If utilizing space heaters, give them space. Keep them at least 3 feet from combustibles. Do not plug them into extension cords. Plug them directly into a receptacle.”
Himel also advised against using a stove or oven to heat your home.
The State Fire Marshall’s Office gave these winter safety tips to prevent house fires:
Place space heaters 3-5 feet from combustible objects such as blankets.
Plug all heaters directly into wall outlets and avoid power strips or extension cords.
Don’t use stoves or ovens to heat your home.
Don’t overfill fireplaces or wood-burning stoves.
Avoid leaving candles or open flames unattended.
Make sure your home is equipped with a working smoke alarm.
To register for a free smoke alarm, visit lasfm.org.