A 75-year-old woman who may have been using an electric blanket to stay warm in Wednesday’s frigid temperatures stepped outside and wound up watching as her home burned, fire officials said.
The woman noticed flames in a window just after she stepped outside her home in the 2400 block of Timberline Drive in southeast Fort Worth, firefighters on the scene said.
Fort Worth firefighters quickly responded, but the fire had spread throughout the house and they took a defensive approach, said a department spokesman, Lt. Kyle Falkner. Defensive mode generally means that fire conditions don’t allow for an attack from inside the structure, and may mean sacrificing the building.
The cause of the fire was not immediately known, but Falkner said fire officials are looking into the possibility that it started with an electric blanket.
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The house was significantly damaged, he said. The department asked the Red Cross to help the woman with a place to stay.
Wednesday morning’s low was 32 degrees at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, and wind chills dipped into the 20s throughout the day. Thursday morning’s low should be around 30 degrees before another front arrives Thursday night, dropping overnight temperatures into the low 20s.
There’s a 20 percent chance of snow flurries Friday as the temperatures continue to fall; Saturday morning’s low is expected to be 21 degrees.
With North Texas bracing for more cold weather, firefighters urged residents to take care while trying to stay warm.
“During these cold snaps, a lot of people are tempted to use any means possible to heat their home,” Falkner said. “Don’t use appliances designed for cooking to heat your home.”
Another potential danger involves space heaters, Falkner said. Make sure space heaters are in good working order, keep them at least 3 feet from combustible material, and don’t use extension cords with them.
He also said residents should have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Stay safe when heating your home
- Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet from heating equipment, like a furnace, fireplace, wood stove or portable space heater.
- Have a 3-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
- Never use your oven to heat your home.
- Have a qualified professional install stationary space-heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to local codes and the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
- Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
- Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel-burning space heaters.
- Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room.
- Test smoke alarms regularly.
Source: National Fire Protection Association