by Brian Manning
EVERYWHERE — The recent cold damp weather had people reaching for the thermostat or using the fireplace to take the chill off. Unfortunately this is the time when the number of house fires increase, in many cases due to improperly installed or maintained heating units.
Some ways to help prevent fires are to have chimneys and stovepipes cleaned and inspected before the first use and during the season, depending on how much wood is burned. Make sure to use seasoned dry wood to prevent the buildup of creosote, which can lead to chimney fires. Make sure your fireplace has a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch rolling logs.
Have furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned at least once a year. Make sure these units have an adequate outside air supply to make them run more efficiently and not overheat.
Portable heaters should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters before going to bed or leaving home. Keep children and pets away from space heaters and make sure to keep clearance from combustibles. All heaters should be UL listed and have an automatic shutoff switch in case it is tipped over.
Keep all combustible material at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces unless a UL listing approves of a lesser distance. Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home, as it can use up the oxygen in your home. If you smell gas, call the fire department immediately and get everyone out of the house.
Have working fire extinguishers mounted and in the vicinity of an exit so if the fire gets out of control you can get out of the house. Make sure you have working smoke detectors and they are on every level of the house and in the vicinity of all sleeping areas. Test them once a month.
Be extremely cautious when using candles, and never go to bed or leave the house with them burning. Make sure pets cannot tip over candles.
Always obtain a building permit when installing a new stove or fireplace to make sure they meet codes. Keep your home warm but fire safe this winter.