The winter months of December, January and February are the deadliest months of the year for home fires, due to the increased use of heating sources as the temperatures drop. Half of all home fires occur in these months. Home heating is second only to cooking as a cause of home fires and space heaters are responsible for two of every five home heating fires and four of five home heating deaths (based on 2011-2015 statistics). Over one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances as primary heat sources in their homes. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the fire risks when heating with wood and solid fuels. Fires from these sources are often due to creosote buildup in chimneys and stovepipes. In order to protect your family and property, fuel fired appliances must be properly installed, operated and maintained to function safely and efficiently. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Orange Fire Marshal’s Office suggest these safety tips to avoid potential dangers from home fires, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and serious burns associated with heating sources.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Precaution: Heating Systems and Gas Appliances
Install at least one CO alarm on each floor of the home. Have a trained professional inspect, clean and tune-up the central heating system and repair leaks or other problems. Fireplaces and woodstoves should also be inspected each year and cleaned or repaired as needed. Keep gas appliances properly adjusted and serviced. Never use an oven or range to heat your home. Never use a gas grill inside your home or in a closed garage.
Home Fire Precautions: Fireplaces and Wood Stoves
Install at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home and in each sleeping area. Burn only wood – not trash, cardboard boxes, or debris. Have a professional chimney sweep inspect the chimneys every year for cracks, blockages and leaks and have any problems cleaned and repaired. Keep all persons, pets and flammable objects, including upholstered furniture, bedding, or clothing at least 36 inches away from fireplaces and woodstoves. Open flues before using fireplaces.
Home Fire Precautions: Space Heaters
Purchase electric space heaters that bear the mark of an independent testing laboratory, such as UL. Look for models with automatic shut-off technology that stops the operation if the heater tips over. Plug a portable electric heater into a receptacle, not an extension cord, so the circuit is not overloaded. Follow the manufacturer’s use and maintenance directions. Turn off space heaters before leaving a room or going to sleep. Supervise children and pets at all times when a portable space heater is in use. Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters. If you have a kerosene heater, it must be used with extreme caution because kerosene is a flammable fuel. Use the type of kerosene recommended by the heater’s manufacturer and never substitute another fuel for a heater designed to burn kerosene. Refuel outdoors and only after the heater has cooled completely. Clean up spills immediately. Never use space heaters to dry flammable items such as clothing or blankets. Keep all flammable objects at least three feet from space heaters.
When building a fire in a wood stove or fireplace, the outer surfaces get hot enough to cause a burn injury. Portable kerosene and electric heaters can also get hot on the outside and, although newer models have grills covering the heating element, a child’s fingers may be small enough to reach through and be seriously burned. Constantly supervise children around all types of heating equipment. For increased protection against unintentional burn injuries, install a temporary safety gate around woodstoves and hearths. Never leave a child unattended in a room with an operating fireplace, woodstove or space heater.
The Fire Marshal’s Office has Carbon Monoxide alarms available, free of charge, for Orange residents. For any questions or concerns about fire safety and prevention or requests for CO alarms to be provided or installed, please contact the Orange Fire Marshal’s Office at (203) 891-4711, Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm or visit the website at www.orangefiremarshal.com.