State Fire Marshal Urges Safety After Winter House Fires

Jan 9, 2018

Space heaters should have a 3-foot buffer, U.S. Fire Administration recommends
Credit U.S. Fire Administration

Firefighters and emergency management directors around New Hampshire are urging Granite Staters to take home-heating precautions while dealing with frozen pipes and possible snow drifts around houses.

Recent house fires underscored the danger, including the New Year's Day death of Sandra Devito, 68, in Seabrook.

Though the State Fire Marshal could not definitively conclude it was the cause of the fire, investigators confirmed the residence was experiencing frozen pipes during the cold weather and attempts were made to thaw them out.

Space heaters figure in two of every five fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The association, in partnership with the U.S. Fire Administration and FEMA, has an awareness campaign, "Put a Freeze on Winter Fires." They call for winter safety in connection with home cooking and heating sources, including generators and detection for carbon monoxide.

After last week's snow storm, New Hampshire State Fire Marshal Bill Degnan issued a warning about building collapse for snow and ice accumulating on rooftops. His office's tips included:

  • Clear roofs of excessive snow and ice buildup.
  • Keep all chimneys and vents clear to prevent carbon monoxide from backing up into the building.
  • Keep exists clear of snow so that occupants can leave safely in the event of a fire or emergency.

Checking on smoke detectors, including a battery check, is another important task listed.

Residents across the state have experienced frozen pipes during the recent cold snap. 

Manchester Fire Department posts safety tips on its website, including home heating do's and don'ts. They note that the fire department does not allow "unvented space heaters to be used in an occupied structure." See Manchester FD's space heater safety tips.

Some residents may be happy to see the recent cold snap leave, only to deal with the aftermath of water damage in their home. In Manchester, Assistant Fire Chief Richard McGahey notes he had to break out the hair dryer to carefully address a frozen pipe in his house. "The worst thing you can do when you have a frozen pipe is not thaw it out too quickly," he says.

State Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, posted on Facebook on Monday that he's still dealing with consequences of the extreme cold. He had trouble with a furnace, and frozen pipes following, including extensive water damage.

Other sources: Red Cross - Home Fire Safety Crucial During Winter Months