Fire chief has advice for winter heating safety
With the recent cold temperatures many of us have begun to use our furnaces and wood stoves. Modern heating appliances are designed to operate safely, but only if they have been properly maintained. If our heating appliances have been neglected they can pose some serious risks to our homes and families. If you haven't had your heating appliances serviced yet, now is the time to make sure they are in proper working condition. Annual service and inspection of heating appliances can help ensure they are safely functioning, help you conserve energy and may also save you hundreds of dollars in heating bills thought the winter months. Here are some tips which may help you protect your home and family from a heating appliance fire.
Gas / Propane Furnaces
• Have your natural gas or LPG furnace cleaned and inspected by a licensed professional.
•Replace the filters regularly.
•Don't store combustible items near your furnace; maintain at least a 3 foot clearance.
• Ensure there is enough air flow to your furnace for adequate combustion. If you are unsure, contact Questar Gas or a licensed heating/cooling contractor.
• Make a visual inspection of the furnace and water heater exhaust flues to ensure they have not been damaged and that there are no separations of the piping.
• Purchase Carbon Monoxide detectors and install at least one on every level of your home. You should also change the batteries regularly.
• Check your smoke alarms to ensure that they are in proper working order.
Coal and Wood Burning Stoves
• Have your chimney cleaned and inspected by a licensed professional. Many older homes have masonry chimneys which may have degraded over the years. This is a very unsafe condition and can lead to a house fire.
• If you choose to burn coal in your stove, make sure your appliance is rated for the higher temperatures which coal produces. Coal can burn at temperatures which are nearly double that of wood products.
• Make sure there is enough clearance between the stove and combustible materials, including floors, walls, and ceilings. Check with the stove manufacturer for proper clearance distances.
•Place the stove on a noncombustible, insulated and fire-resistant base.
•Burn only firewood which has been thoroughly dried. Burning wood which hasn't dried thoroughly can cause creosote buildup in the chimney, which can lead to a chimney fire.
• Place a screen in front of the fireplace to prevent embers or sparks from escaping onto the floor, rug or furniture.
• Have a pair of heat-proof gloves and fireplace implements ready in case you have to pick-up a red hot ember that has fallen out of the stove or fireplace.
• Keep the fireplace damper fully open when the fireplace is in use. This also helps to prevent creosote buildup on chimney walls.
•Dispose of ashes properly after they are allowed to cool and place them in a closed metal container outside and away from the home.
• Don't start a stove or fireplace fire with flammable fluids, such as gasoline.
•Don't leave your children unattended near your stove or fireplace.
•Don't burn pressure treated wood, painted wood, drift wood, particle board, plywood, plastic, magazines, colored paper, gift wrap, cardboard, or garbage.
•Don't use artificial logs in wood burning stoves; they are intended for fireplaces only.
•All homes should have the following fire protection and safety items, regardless of the type of heating appliance they use.
Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Alarms:
It's important to ensure the batteries in your smoke and CO alarms are fresh and the devices are in proper working condition. These devices don't last forever and need to be replaced at the end of their usable life, which is generally 5-10 years depending on the type of device, check the manufacturer's recommendations.
It's important to remember that these devices are only warning devices and your family needs to develop and practice a home fire evacuation drill, so that everyone knows what to do when the device activates.
Fire extinguishers should be checked at least once a year. There are numerous companies which are licensed to perform this service for you.
Fire prevention is based on the premise that the best house fire is the one which never occurs. Take time to look throughout your home for conditions which may lead to a fire. Your local fire department can help you identify these potential fire hazards and most are willing to help if you will ask.