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How to keep your home (and family) safe from winter fires

In addition to my role as a safety educator for the Kohl’s Cares Grow Safe & Healthy program, I am the daughter of a fire chief. Growing up, it seemed to me that my dad and his team was called out to more home fires in the winter months, and it turns out that’s entirely true. Did you know that fire caused by home heating is the second-leading cause of fire? (The first is cooking.) Staying warm and safe at home during our cold Wisconsin winter requires some heating smarts. Here are some things to consider:

Portable space heaters

  • Place space heaters at least 3 feet away from anything that could catch fire, and never use a space heater to dry mittens or clothing.
  • Small children and pets should not be left alone with heaters.
  • Make sure the heater has an auto shut-off, which will shut it off if it tips over.
  • Plug space heaters directly into outlets rather than into an extension cord or power strip.

Kohl’s Cares Grow Safe & Healthy logoFireplaces

  • Have your chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional before using it. Buildup in the chimney, called creosote, can cause a fire.
  • Never burn flammable liquids, cardboard or trash in your fireplace. These items can cause intense flames, which can start a chimney fire, send sparks into the room or cause toxic smoke.
  • Use a fireplace screen to prevent sparks and embers from coming into the room.

Overall prevention

  • Put fires out and turn heaters off before going to bed or leaving your home.
  • Never use the stove or oven to heat your home.
  • Keep candles, matches, and lighters out of the reach of children.
  • Install at least one smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home, including near sleeping areas.
  • Keep fire extinguishers in the kitchen, laundry room, and garage, and inspect them regularly.

Be diligent about home safety

As a kid, my dad’s constant stream of reminders about fire safety sometimes felt a little overdone. But as I’ve grown into an adult and now more fully understand the serious, and often life-threatening nature of fire, I know how important it is to be diligent about home safety to put a freeze on winter fires.

Preventing fire is just one of the many topics that is covered through the Kohl’s Cares Grow Safe & Healthy program, a partnership of Kohl’s Cares and Children’s Wisconsin. You’ll find many ways to keep your family safe in the home, outdoors and on the go. Visit for more information.