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Properly maintain, utilize home heating equipment

During 2006, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 64,100 home structure fires, 540 civilian deaths, 1,400 injuries and $9.4 million in direct property damage.

The peak months for home heating fires are December, January and February.

According to a recent report released by the National Fire Protection Association, nearly three in four of the victims killed in 2006 died in incidents involving stationary or portable space heaters.

The NFPA report concluded that home heating fires are more likely to occur in the evening and peak between 6 and 11 p.m.

Fatal home heating fires are more likely to occur between midnight and 10 a.m.

The leading factor contributing to incidents involved leaving heating equipment too close to flammable objects.

To alleviate the related risks, NFPA encourages local residents to.

•Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment like furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves and portable heaters.

•Use only heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.

•Never use an oven for heating.

•Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer's instructions.

•Maintain heating equipment and chimneys.

People should having heating equipment and chimneys cleaned as well as inspected annually by qualified professional, noted NFPA.

•Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.

•Always use the proper fuel as specified by the manufacturer for fuel burning space heaters.

•Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room and burn only dry, seasoned wood.

People should allow the fireplace ashes to cool before disposing of the materials in a metal container.

The container should be kept a safe distance from the home.

•Install chimney connectors and chimneys following manufacturer's instructions for wood burning stoves.

People may want to have a professional complete the installation, pointed out NFPA.

•Make sure all fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

•Install and maintain alarms to alleviate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

•Test smoke alarms at least monthly.

In addition, carbon County residents who smell gas should never attempt to light the fuel- fired home heating appliance, stressed NFPA. Instead, people should turn off all of the appliance's controls and open the doors as well as windows before calling a service person.

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