Gwinnett County

Bitter cold could be key culprit to rise in house fires

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Firefighters in metro Atlanta were busy over the weekend after several house fires ignited during the frigid cold.

Severe Weather Team 2's Brian Monahan learned the cold weather may be the main culprit behind them.

As temperatures plunged into the teens around metro Atlanta over the weekend, house fires spiked.

Fire investigators in Gwinnett County said they responded to at least four house fires over the weekend and it's suspected they were ignited by home-heating elements.


Capt. Tommy Rutledge of the Gwinnett County Fire Department said they often see a spike in fires this time of year.

"We do know that traditionally means an increase in structure fire calls," Rutledge told Monahan. "We're trying to heat our homes with the wood stoves, the fire place, the space heaters. "

One place people have been going to, to heat their homes in these recent cold blasts is the kitchen.

Whether homeowners are turning on the oven, or turning on the stove to heat their home, it's a problem because they're flipping off the lights and going to bed with no idea of what's happening behind them.

"We should never use cooking appliances to heat the home. The oven or stove are meant to cook, they're not home-heating appliances and can be an extreme fire hazard or burn hazard," Rutledge said.

Rutledge showed Monahan another major culprit in sparking fires: space heaters.

Rutledge said you want to keep at least a 3- or 4-foot radius around a space heater clear of anything that could ignite and a unit with an emergency shut off is best.

Even if you have central heat, Rutledge said you should have your furnace inspected before the peak heating season and the best way to keep your family safe is to make sure you have working smoke detectors.

The other time of year that Gwinnett fire sees activity spike is during the spring and summer thunderstorm season.