Winter weather has arrived and as the temperatures become colder, homeowners are seeking alternative and economical ways 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 urge residents to be vigilant when using alternative heating methods.
To assure your 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.
o 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.
o Both flare-up easily and increase the risk of fire.
o Use only fuels appropriate for appliance.
· Refuel outside and only after heater has cooled.
· DO NOT use kerosene heaters in small enclosed areas.
o 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.
o ALWAYS unplug when not in use.
· Avoid using extension cords.
o NEVER use frayed or damaged cords.