Kathy’s Home & Garden Tips – Preventing Winter Fires

Winter is just around the corner and many of us are using supplemental heat to save on the high cost of heating fuel and gas. While this is a good idea, we need to remember that these heating sources can be very dangerous if not used safely. These items can be a major contributor to residential fires. However, they can be prevented!

Kerosene is more widely used in the south and west. Always make sure the unit is in proper working condition. Make sure the kerosene is stored properly and away from children. Proper ventilation is key, as kerosene is equally as dangerous carbon monoxide and can accumulate quickly. Only refill units outdoors, when they are not hot or operating, and avoid overfilling. Always make sure the proper fuel for the unit is used and watch for excessive carbon buildup.

Wood stoves and fireplaces are somewhat safer, but can still be a cause for concern. Stoves and fireplaces should always be installed by professionals and their chimneys inspected annually. Clean if necessary, especially if it hasn’t been used for some time. Never use flammable liquids to start the fire. Do not over build the fire with paper or kindling, as creosote in the chimney can ignite. Always use a glass or metal screen in front of a fireplace to prevent sparks from igniting. Keep flammable material away from the exterior. Before going to bed, make sure fire is completely out. Keep damper open to prevent fires from reigniting and causing CO buildup. If you use synthetic logs, always follow directions to the letter. Don’t break apart or use more than one at a time, they can burn unevenly causing more CO.

Electric space heaters can cause problems too, but are not quite as dangerous as fuel burning heaters. All heaters should be in good working condition with intact cords and plugs. If you must use an extension cord, make sure it is rated for more than the heater puts out. It should be used for the heater only! Keep flammables like curtains, blankets, and furniture away. Keep out of pathways and teach children to keep away. Don’t use in kitchens and bathrooms, as there is  danger of water contact.

Never use your oven to heat the house. Not only is it a safety hazard, it can be a source of potentially toxic fumes. We can be warm and cozy in our homes this winter by following the rules of fire safety.