January is a historically a busy month for firefighters in the area, said Fulton Fire Department Chief Dean Buffington.
That observation is proving true this week with four fires in Callaway County - three being in Holts Summit and one in Millersburg.
The Holts Summit Fire Protection District responded to structure fires Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The causes are still being investigated, but HSFD public information officer Scott Pasley said after on-site assessments it appeared stove ashes and electrical complications could have started the fires.
A fire broke out in a residence on the 300 block of Julie Lane in Holts Summit at about 6 a.m. Monday. Tuesday's incident happened around 2 a.m. near the 2000 block of County Road 4028. The fire started in the basement and was contained there, according to Capt. Jason Sevart. An 8-by-10 shed was completely destroyed Wednesday morning near County Road 4012.
No one was injured in the Holts Summit fires or the Millersburg fire, but the three-day streak has prompted the Holts Summit Fire Protection District to send a message of fire safety.
Pasley said no one was harmed in these fires because people heard smoke alarms and contacted fire personnel early. Checking smoke alarms is the first step to being safe.
"Now is the time to do it,"Sevart said.
He said people should not hesitate to call 9-1-1 because they are embarrassed or feel they can extinguish the fire themselves.
"You can buy a new home, build a new building, but you can't bring back an individual," Pasley said.
Sevart said ashes need to be safely contained in metal tins with tight lids. The ashes, he added, should be contained inside the tins for at least five days - embers can burn for up to a week - and the tin should be on a surface away from combustibles.
He said area residents also need to check their air vents and replace filters, and make sure chimneys are clean and operational.
Before heading to bed or leaving home, people should turn off any kerosene or propane. Sevart also warned that people should carefully monitor carbon monoxide levels.
"CO is the silent killer," he said.
Buffington said not to plug into too many outlets and to turn off portable heaters when they are unaccompanied. Proper maintenance is important, he added, and people should hire certified workers to install or fix heaters and stoves.
Sevart, Pasley and Buffington said outside burning is extremely hazardous right now with dry, windy weather conditions and should not take place.
"Save it for later," Buffington said. "It's not going anywhere."
When the time is right for controlled burning, Sevart said to do so at least 50 feet away from any structure and 10 feet away from any combustibles. The Fulton Fire Department requires a burn permit. More information can be found at fultonmo.org.
Before burning, call (573) 592-2486. Those within the Fulton city limits can also call (573) 592-3150. Holts Summit residents can call (573) 896-4589.