Practice home heating safety before the cooler temperatures set in
It starts with ensuring your fireplace, furnace, heaters are in good working order
SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — The prospect of overnight lows in the 30s in some parts of the ArkLaTex this week likely has some thinking about their home heating needs.
Industry experts, however, suggest that you first ensure everything is in working order before firing up your furnace, lighting up your fireplace or indoor stove or turning on your space heater.
Heating is the second-leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries and the third-leading cause of home fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Local fire departments responded to an average of 48,530 fires involving heating equipment per year in 2014-18, accounting for 14% of all reported home fires during this time frame. These fires resulted in 500 civilian deaths, 1,350 civilian injuries and $1.1 billion in direct property damage per year.
- Home fires caused by heating equipment most often involved space heaters and accounted for just more than 2 in 5 fires, as well as 4 in 5 deaths and injuries and more than half of the direct property damage.
- Fireplaces or chimneys were responsible for about 3 in 10 fires caused by heating equipment, making them the second-leading cause of home heating equipment fires. Fires caused by fireplaces or chimneys led to proportionately fewer deaths or injuries but were responsible for nearly one-quarter of the direct property damage.
- Central heating systems and water heaters each accounted for approximately 1 in 10 fires caused by heating equipment but smaller shares of deaths, injuries and direct property damage.
And while such fires are prevalent, they too are largely preventable.
WOOD-BURNING FIREPLACES, STOVES
RULE NUMBER 1: Ensure your equipment is in safe working order. This means getting your fireplaces, chimneys and furnaces inspected, cleaned and/or serviced annually by licensed professionals before firing them up for the colder weather season.
In wood-burning fireplaces, for example, creosote (a combustible substance created when wood does not burn completely) deposits on the chimney walls and plays a role in 19% of all home heating fires each year, according to the NFPA.
A fireplace inspector may also for a gas leak, damage to the firebox; loose grout or mortar joints; use of improper starter or ignition materials; anything that occludes the flue; and hazards outside the fireplace such as combustible materials that are too close.
- Burn only dry, seasoned wood in wood stoves.
- Use hardwood because it gives off less soot.
- Burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets in pellet stoves.
- Start the fire with newspaper or kindling, never with a flammable liquid such as lighter fluid, kerosene or gasoline.
- Keep your wood stove’s doors closed unless loading or stoking the fire.
- Use a sturdy fireplace screen.
- Allow ashes to cool before disposing.
- Dispose of ashes in a tightly covered metal container.
- Keep the ash container at least 10 feet from the home and any other nearby buildings.
- Douse and saturate the ashes with water.
PORTABLE ETHANOL-BURNING FIREPLACES
Portable ethanol burning fireplaces have become more popular in recent years. They come with their own safety guidelines:
- A portable ethanol burning fireplace and the fuel should only be used by adults.
- Clean up any fuel spillage and be sure all liquid has evaporated before lighting the fireplace.
- Light the fireplace using a utility lighter or long match.
- An adult should always be present when a portable fireplace is burning.
- Place the fireplace on a sturdy surface away from table edges.
- It’s a good idea to crack a window open for a fresh air supply.
- Never try to move a lit fireplace or one that is still hot.
- Don’t pour ethanol fuel in a device that is lit or not completely cool. It may result in a fire or injury.
- Allow the device to cool for at least 15 minutes before refueling.
- Extinguish the flame when you leave the room, home or go to sleep.
- Store ethanol fuel in a closed container, away from the fireplace and out of the reach of children.
- Always close the lid or use a snuffer to be sure the flame is extinguished before refueling into a cooled fireplace.
- Use only fuel made specifically for the fireplace.
- Ethanol is a plant-based product that does not release new carbon monoxide into the air
PORTABLE ELECTRIC HEATERS
- Use and purchase heaters with an automatic shut off so if they’re tipped over, they will shut off.
- Place portable electric space heaters them on a solid, flat surface, away from high traffic areas and doorways.
- Plug power cords only into outlets with sufficient capacity and never into an extension cord.
- Inspect for cracked or damaged, broken plugs or loose connections; replace before using.
- Space heaters need space. Keep all things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
- Turn them off when you go to bed or leave the room.
OTHER HEATING SAFETY TIPS
- Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home.
- Be sure your home has both photoelectric and ionization smoke alarms or combination ionization and photoelectric alarms, also known as dual sensor smoke alarms.
- Interconnect all smoke alarms through the home – when one sounds, they all sound.
- Test smoke alarms at least once a month.
- Practice your home fire escape drill.
- Never use an oven to heat your home.
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