San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood. Credit: Rocío Guenther / San Antonio Report

Since the first of the year, there have been at least 36 fires throughout San Antonio, San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood said at a press conference Wednesday. One of these fires resulted in the death of a 75-year-old man.

As temperatures drop, the number of fires tends to rise due to increased space heater and fireplace usage, Hood explained, as well as people not being “proactive” about fire safety.

“Make sure space heaters are turned off [when you leave your home] and make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen,” Hood said. SAFD recommends clearing a three-foot radius around space heaters, refraining from using anything that is not wood to help start a fire in a fireplace (such as holiday wrapping paper), and never using an oven or stove to heat the home.

People should also pay attention to what they wear around home heating appliances, as baggy clothing such as robes may catch fire if they get too close to appliances.

Hood said a lot of fires that result in death during the winter months are caused by people using improper measures to heat homes. A barbecue pit, for example, caused a recent fire. Of the 36 fires in San Antonio since Jan. 1, seven were related to improper home heating techniques, with many still under investigation.

The fires resulted in 270 unit responses throughout the city, which included deployed fire trucks, ambulances, and command vehicles.

A map of locations that have subject to a fire since the beginning of 2018. Credit: Courtesy / San Antonio Fire Department

Colder temperatures and the likelihood of snow or ice may cause delays in emergency personnel’s response times, Hood explained. Wind on cold nights may exacerbate fires, so citizens’ diligence in regard to fire safety is paramount, he added.

Hoarding and clutter may also interfere with response times as first responders may struggle to safely and effectively move throughou a home.

“Hoarding is something that we continue to educate the people of San Antonio about,” Hood said. “It makes it difficult for rescuers to get in, it’s difficult for those in the house to get out, and it increases the fire load to a volume where sometimes we cannot go in and control it.”

To ensure safety, the fire department recommends checking smoke detectors within the home. San Antonio residents who need assistance in replacing detectors can dial 2-1-1 to schedule a maintenance appointment. For those with concerns regarding heating equipment or potential electrical issues inside the home, Hood recommends contacting the fire department so that associates may check the appliance in question.

“If you have a concern to where your heater is making a noise, sparking, [or] flickering, you can call us,” Hood said. “That’s what we are here for. We would rather do that then come out two hours later to a house on fire.”

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.