As the weather becomes colder, homeowners are seeking alternative and economical methods to keep warm. Heating fires are the second leading cause of residential fires and fire-related deaths. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, on average, each year (2008 -2010), approximately 150 deaths, 575 injuries and $326 million in property damage occurred in the U.S. due to home heating fires. The Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue (www.pwcgov.org/fire) urge residents to be vigilant when using alternative heating methods.
To assure your family’s safety when keeping warm, adhere to the following precautions:
Fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances
· Keep fireplaces and woodstoves clean.
o Clean annually by a certified chimney specialist.
· Keep area around fireplace and woodstove clean and free of debris, decorations and flammable materials.
· Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces.
· Install stovepipe thermometers to monitor flue temperatures.
· Keep air inlets open on woodstoves and fireplaces.
o If closed, inlets cause creosote buildup and lead to chimney fires.
· Use fire resistant materials around woodstoves, i.e. walls and floors.
Safely Burn Fuels
· NEVER use flammable liquids to start a fire.
· Use only seasoned wood.
o Certain types of wood increases creosote buildup, i.e. soft moist wood.
· Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.
· NEVER leave a fire unattended in a fireplace.
o Extinguish fire before leaving the house or going to bed.
· ALWAYS remove ashes in a covered metal container.
- Buy only UL-approved heaters.
- Check with local fire department on the legality of kerosene heater use in your community.
- NEVER fill your heater with gasoline or camp stove fuel.
- Both flare-up easily and increase the risk of fire.
- Use only fuels appropriate for appliance.
- Refuel outside and only after heater has cooled.
- DO NOT use kerosene heaters in small enclosed areas.
- Potential for carbon monoxide poisoning.
- When using, keep a window ajar or the door open.
- Annually, clean kerosene heaters and replace wicks.
Electric Space Heaters
- Buy only heaters with Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) safety listing.
- Be sure it has a thermostat control mechanism and automatically switches off if tipped over.
- ALWAYS unplug when not in use.
- Avoid using extension cords.
- NEVER use frayed or damaged cords.
To significantly increase your chances of surviving a fire in your home, more than 82%, install smoke alarms and sprinklers in the home. In addition, develop and practice a home fire escape plan and be sure everyone is familiar with the plan.