House fire claims the life of Forest resident, safety tips offered


Cold weather lead to tragedy last week ultimately causing a fatality in the city of Forest when a house was ingulfed by flames.

According to Forest Fire Chief Jason Tilman the fire occured on the evening of December 12.

“Late last Tuesday night we responded to a report of a residential structure fire at 495 North Street,” Tillman said. “Firefighters arrived on scene where they encountered heavy fire conditions throughout the structure and were forced into a defensive mode operation.  Once fire conditions were brought under control to a point where firefighters were able to enter the structure, one deceased occupant was located in a room at the rear of the residence.”

Tillman said that the victim could not be positively identified at the time due to the condition of the body.

Based on a joint cause and origin investigation by the Forest Fire Department and the Mississippi State Fire Marshal’s Office, it appears that the fire originated in the kitchen where an oven was being used to heat the home.

With more cold weather, and even a possibility of snow, in the forecast for the long Christmas holiday weekend State Insurance Commissioner and Fire Marshal Mike Chaney is offering tips on having a safe and happy holiday without fire.

Chaney says having your heating equipment checked and using it as it is intended greatly cuts the risk of a fire in your home.

“As days grow cooler, many Mississippians, especially the elderly, who are more susceptible to the cold, are beginning to turn on and use space heaters,” Chaney said. “Too many fires and fire deaths are caused by faulty heating equipment or people using ill-advised methods to stay warm.”

He added that having a working smoke alarm in your home can cut your risk of dying in a home fire in half. Fire deaths  investigated by the State Fire Marshal’s Office are up this year over last year’s investigations. A National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 2010 report shows the leading factor contributing to ignition for home heating fire deaths was heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses, or bedding. Home heating fires peak during 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., and associated deaths peak during 2:00 to 4:00 a.m.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office recommends the following heating fire safety tips:

• All heating equipment should be UL® approved and cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional prior to being used each year.

• Remember to keep clothes, drapes, and anything else combustible at least 3 feet away from all heating equipment, especially space heaters.

• Inspect the space heater’s power cord for damage, fraying or heat. If the cord inspection reveals any of these issues, the heater should be replaced. Proper cleaning is essential and should be done regularly.

• Never use space heaters while you sleep or in areas where children may be without adult supervision.

• Do not leave space heaters on when you are away from home.

•Always unplug space heaters when they are not in use. The heater should also be equipped with a tip over shut-off switch.

• Use only traditional heating equipment.

• Never use a stove or oven to heat living spaces. Kerosene is a poor choice for heating as it will give off poisonous fumes.

• Have chimney flues cleaned and inspected by qualified personnel.

• Have a spark screen that is age appropriate for all individuals using any area to be heated by a fireplace.

• Burn only approved materials in a fireplace or wood-burning stove; never burn paper or trash in a fireplace or wood burning stove.

Should a fire break out in the home, have an emergency evacuation plan for the family to follow and have a designated meeting place for all family members.

Once everyone is outside the burning home, call 911 and do not re-enger the house under any circumstances.

For more fire safety information and tips visit the State Fire Marshal page of the Mississippi Insurance Department website at can also follow the Mississippi State Fire Marshal on Twitter at Heating safety tips are also available on the MID YouTube page/FireSafety playlist at