Abandoned, older structures more at risk of catching fire during winter

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – During the colder months, people usually bump up the heat while also bringing out extra heat sources like space heaters.

Many know that those can cause fires in the home or in any building if not plugged in correctly or covered.

But that’s not the only reason structure fires are formed.

We talked to the Columbus Fire Chief about how other fires are sparked in the winter months.

The winter months will always bring an increase in structure fires, particularly old structure fires.

Columbus Fire Chief Duane Hughes said that he and his team see more fires in older houses or buildings during the winter months.

A reason for that is because people who are homeless will go into abandoned buildings or homes in an effort to stay warm.

Hughes said they will start a fire and that’s when the flames spread throughout the home.

The chief said when it comes to abandoned property, he makes sure that his crews are safe first. But if someone is in there, then a risk has to be taken.

“If there’s no one in a structure and we know it’s abandoned we’re not going to risk the life of a firefighter to enter. So that’s risking very little to save little. It’s an abandoned structure it can be replaced. If there’s a life on the line, we risk a lot to save a lot,” said Hughes.

Hughes said in his time with Columbus Fire and Rescue, he can only recall two tragedies where someone died from a fire at an abandoned building.

He said that his teams are well trained if the worst should happen.

“We conduct live burn training in those structures. We’ll go inside we’ll make sure that the structure is sound. We will set fires and then call the firefighters to fight them. We place mannequins in to play the role of victims and we get a lot of training out of that,” said Hughes.

Hughes encouraged people who have space heaters or other alternate forms of heating to be cautious of where they place them during the winter months.

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