MCFRS News Release
Cold Weather is Here - Area Fire Departments Are Busy
Discard Fireplace Ashes in a Metal Container Away From the House and Keep Clutter Away From Heat Sources
The cold temperatures are here. More fires seem to occur around this time of the year as the result of combustibles too close to a heat sources, malfunction in chimney flues, improperly placed fireplace ashes, malfunctioning heating systems and/or associated electrical overloads. During the upcoming months, home heating systems and heating equipment continue to be significant factor in structural fires in Montgomery County. Many of these fires can be prevented. The following fire safety tips and information can help you maintain a fire safe home and business this winter.
- Be sure your heating system is in good working condition. Have a licensed representative inspect and service all parts of your furnace and exhaust parts for carbon build-up.
- Never use fuel burning heating appliances without proper room venting to the outside of the home.
- Burning fuel (kerosene, coal or propane, for (example) produces deadly fumes. Be aware of all of the possible sources of carbon monoxide buildup in your home.
- Keep young children and elderly occupants of the home safely away from space heaters -- especially when they are wearing nightgowns or other loose clothing that can be easily ignited.
- Do not overload electrical circuits. Dedicate an outlet for the electric space heater if it is used as a heat source in areas of your home. Do not use an extension cord with the electric space heater. Never use a fuel burning (kerosene, propane) type of heater in the home because of the deadly carbon monoxide gas those appliances produce.
WOOD STOVES AND FIREPLACES
Wood stoves and fireplaces are becoming a very common heat source in homes. Careful attention to safety can minimize a fire related emergency. To use them safely:
- Be sure the stove or fireplace is installed properly by a professional. Wood stoves should have adequate clearance (36”) from combustible surfaces, and proper floor support and protection.
- Wood stoves should be of good quality, solid construction and design, and should be UL listed.
- Have the chimney inspected annually and cleaned if necessary, especially if it has not been used for some time.
- Do not use flammable liquids to start or accelerate any fire.
- Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace opening, to prevent embers or sparks from igniting combustibles outside the fireplace, unwanted material from going in, and help prevent the possibility of bums to occupants. The stove should be burned hot twice a day for 15-30 minutes to reduce the amount of creosote buildup.
- Don’t use excessive amounts of paper to build roaring fires in fireplaces. It is possible to ignite creosote in the chimney by overbuilding the fire.
- Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide.
- Keep flammable materials away from your mantel. A spark from the fireplace could easily ignite these materials.
- Before you go to sleep, be sure your fireplace fire is out. NEVER close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace. A closed damper will help the fire to heat up again and will force toxic carbon monoxide into the house.
- If synthetic logs are used, follow the directions on the package. Never break a synthetic log apart to quicken the fire or use more than one log at a time. They often burn unevenly, releasing higher levels of carbon monoxide.
- Never discard hot ashes inside or near the home. Place them in a metal container outside and well away from the house (at least 20 feet away from the home and combustibles).
It’s important that you have your furnace inspected to insure that it is in good working condition.
- Be sure all furnace controls and emergency shutoffs are in proper working condition. Leave furnace repairs to qualified specialists. Do not attempt repairs yourself unless you are qualified.
- Inspect the walls and ceiling near the furnace and along the chimney line. If the wall is hot or discolored, additional pipe insulation or clearance may be required.
- Check the flue pipes and pipe seams. Are they well supported? Free of holes, and cracks? Soot along or around seams may be an indicator of a leak.
- Is the chimney solid? No cracks or loose bricks? All unused flue openings should be sealed with solid masonry.
- Keep trash and other combustibles away from the heating system (at least 36 inch clearance all the way around the appliance).
OTHER FIRE SAFETY TIPS
- Never use a range or an oven as a supplementary heating devise. Not only is it a safety hazard, it can be a source of potentially toxic fumes.
- If you use an electric heater, be sure not to overload the circuit. Designate an outlet for the sole purpose of the space heater.
- Avoid using electric space heaters in bathrooms, or other areas where they may come in contact with water.
- Frozen water pipes? Never try to thaw them with a blow torch or other open flame, (otherwise the pipe could conduct the heat and ignite the wall structure inside the wall space).
- Use hot water or a UL labeled device such as a hand held dryer for thawing.
- If windows are used as emergency exits in your home, practice using them during your home escape planning. Be sure that all windows open easily.
- If there is a fire hydrant near your home you can assist the fire department by keeping the hydrant clear of snow so in the event it is needed, it can be located.
- Be sure every level of your home has a working smoke alarm, and be sure to check and clean it on a monthly basis.