We just had a beautiful weekend here.  Saturday it was sunny and the temperature was near 70 degrees.  Today, just two days later, it was 29 degrees when I got up to walk the dogs this morning.  Winter is definitely on its way.  As temperatures get colder, we’ll need to turn up the heat. And as fuel and utility costs continue to increase, people are looking for alternative heating sources.

Unfortunately, statistics show that as temperatures get colder the number of home heating fires increases.  According to a report by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), “Heating Fires in Residential Buildings (2008-2010),” heating was the second leading cause of all residential building fires.

Most fires caused by home heating equipment can be prevented by following some safety tips:

  • Furnace
    • Have your furnace inspected to make sure it is in good working condition.  Check the vent pipe for holes, cracks, and seal around seams.
    • Change filters as recommended by the manufacturer.
    • Keep direct vents clear of snow and leaves.
  • Portable Heaters
    • Only use the proper fuel recommended by the manufacturer.  Keep spare fuel stored in approved containers outside the home.
    • Take the heater outside to refuel.  Never fill a heater while it is operating or hot.
    • Fuel-burning heating equipment can be a source of carbon monoxide.  Make sure there is proper ventilation.
    • Maintain a clearance of at least three feet to combustible materials around space heaters.  Check the heater periodically to make sure combustible items have not gotten dropped or placed too close.
    • In order to prevent heaters from falling or being tipped over, place heaters on a flat level surface.
    • Turn heaters off when you leave the room or go to sleep.
    • Electric heaters draw a lot of power.  Don’t overload outlets.  Check the plug and cord. If they feel hot, discontinue use immediately.  Have the outlet checked by a qualified electrician.
  • Wood Stoves and Fireplaces
    • Have the chimney inspected and cleaned at least annually.
    • Maintain proper clearances, per the manufacturer’s instructions, around wood-fired devices.
    • Always use a proper screen in front of a fireplace to contain embers and sparks.
    • Allow ashes to cool before removing them from the fireplace.  Use a metal container for disposal.

And some tips in general…

  • Install Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors in your home.  Test them regularly.
  • Install smoke detectors.  Test them regularly to ensure they are in operating condition.
  • Keep a portable fire extinguisher in your home.

Stay warm but safe this winter.  If you have any additional safety tips to help prevent heating related fires and deaths, please share!

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