Tulsa is seeing a surge in house fires

Monday, December 19th 2005, 9:29 pm
By: News On 6

For the first time in history, Tulsa firefighters will respond to more than 50,000 calls in one year. Fire Captain Larry Bowles says the department's call volume has quadrupled over the last decade.

News on 6 anchor Tami Marler explains how you can help stem the tide.

This time of year, when temperatures are low and holiday spirit's high, firefighters are especially busy and they are not the only ones.

"That's so funny that you called, 'cause Channel 6 is here, talking about how everyone's been so giving to us." Michelle Skelton has taken many calls like this one since an out-of-control candle caused a devastating fire in their apartment. Starting the next day, Thanksgiving Day, folks have been eager to help. "It's been everything from free furniture to, it's just been amazing. We ran out of that fire with no shoes, no shirt, we were in our pajamas, and people were kicking their shoes off and wrapping us up in blankets, and the Red Cross showed up."

In 19 days, Red Cross volunteers have helped 36 northeast Oklahoma families - like the Skeltons - with temporary housing, clothing, money and other necessities. "I never realized how many house fires there are this time of year."

"Winter time and holidays bring an increase of candles in the home. A lot of times holiday fires will occur because someone set a candle in a window where there are curtains. Curtains are flammable. Leaving those unattended is just not a good idea at all." Fire Captain Larry Bowles says, also common this time of year, fires that start when people are trying to stay warm.

Investigators believe a space heater is to blame for a Oklahoma City fire early Monday morning, which killed two children and critically injured another. When you begin to power electric space heaters with cords that are to small or over too great a distance, you begin to build up friction and you'll have a heat source. Many times people will run those lines under a rug, where heat can build up, and that can start a fire as well.

Three children and an adult were killed in another Oklahoma City fire, caused by another common culprit. Tulsa Fire Captain Larry Bowles: "Kitchen fires are a big thing during the holidays. A lot of times people will get a lot of irons in the fire. And they'll begin to get too busy or they'll forget about things."

Michelle Skelton knows how quickly you can lose everything and she's grateful. "I feel like God had sent his whole entire team of guardian angels over us that night."

Captain Larry Bowles says another common type of fire this time of year is the chimney fire. He says it's important to have an expert inspect your fireplace and chimney once a year. Bowles says to make sure your Christmas tree has plenty of water and that it's nowhere near an open flame.