House fires increase in Dothan, Wiregrass

House fires increase in Dothan, Wiregrass
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

HOUSTON CO., AL (WSFA) - Dothan Fire reports there's been an increase in residential fires recently. While fire officials say that is normal during colder months, the string of recent fires is concerning.

Firefighters have responded to nine fires in 10 days since Christmas, according to Chief Chris Etheredge. He says roughly half of those fires were related to heat sources. Damage ranges from minor damage to the more significant kinds that displace families.

But the trend isn't just in the Dothan area. It's Houston County and the Wiregrass.

"We had an apartment fire in the city of Colombia where somebody did lose their home. We had one in Hodgesville and one in Cottonwood the night before last," said Chris Judah, Executive Director of the Houston County Emergency Management Agency. "I know Geneva County, the Slocomb area, and several other places over there have had some in the last few days."

Fire officials are stressing the importance of remembering common sense safety measures.

"We have so many people that assume it's not going to happen to me. All of the safety things we talk about, like proper safety clearance around your space heaters and having smoke alarms – all of those things don't apply to me and it can," said Etheredge.

With a few more bitterly cold nights, they're reminding people to not plug space heaters into electrical strips and make sure there are three feet of clearance around the heat source. And check the device before you use it.

"Pull out that instruction manual. See how many things are supposed to be plugged up to that. Just because it has six or seven outlets doesn't mean you have to use them all. You're overloading that circuit in your wall. Those things can arc and cause a fire very quickly," said Judah.

Make sure you check your fireplace before using it and never use paper or accelerants to start a fire.

Fire officials say sometimes things do happen and your best line of defense is to make sure you have a working smoke alarm.

"Touch the button. Make sure that it's working. If it's not, call 334-615-3473 and we'll come out and install one in your home free of charge to make sure your family is protected tonight," said Etheredge.

The Red Cross is assisting the families displaced by fires. If you're interested in donating to fire victims, contact the Houston County Emergency Management Agency.

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