How to prevent fires, CO2 poisoning while trying to stay warm during the winter storm

We see it every winter: devastating house fires and carbon monoxide poisonings from people trying to stay warm when the power goes out.

The National Fire Protection Association reports the leading cause of home fires is heating equipment.  

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Before you go to bed tonight, test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.  If you don't have them, you still have time to buy them at the hardware store, starting at around $10.

Fire officials say two fires last night are suspected to be warming fires that got out of control, one in an abandoned house on Wayne Street, the other an abandoned motel along the Eastex Freeway.

Frigid temperatures and no heat too often lead to devastating fires.  

"Our number one safety tip is always going to be to ensure you have a working smoke detector. Your smoke alarm should be tested every month and replaced every 10 years," said Martee Boose, spokesperson for the Houston Fire Department.

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The National Fire Protection Association reports 81% of home heating fire deaths to involve space heaters. More than half were too close to flammables, such as furniture, clothing, or bedding.

"We recommend you use them on a solid flat surface, and we always tell the public that space heaters need space" said Boose. "Make sure they are three feet away from anything flammable."

Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

"We recommend space heaters that have some type of gate," said Boose. "Or if you have young children, you can put a baby gate around the space heater."

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500 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning were reported in last year's freeze.  A mother and daughter died as a family tried to stay warm by running a car in a garage. Make sure cars and generators are running outdoors.

"Carbon monoxide is very dangerous it’s a colorless odorless gas. Some of the signs and symptoms you may see of carbon monoxide poisoning would be headache or nausea or a sudden onset of sleepiness," said Boose.

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And she says don't use the stove, oven, or grill indoors for heat, as they can expose you to carbon monoxide or cause a fire as well. The Houston Fire Department gives out free smoke alarms and installs them. 

If you don't have heat, you can go to these warming shelters:

City of Houston
NACC Disaster Services
16605 Air Center Blvd., Houston
Doors open at 7 p.m.
Phone:  (832) 626-7111

Fort Bend County
North Rosenberg Resource Center
1908 Ave. E, Rosenberg
6 p.m. - 7 a.m.
Phone:  (832) 471-6090

Brazoria County
Legacy Community Church
4085 FM 528, Alvin
Open 24/7
Phone:  (832) 994-5887

Montgomery County
Lone Star Community Center
2500 Lone Star Pkwy, Montgomery
Open Thursday