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Heat your home safely this winter

By TODD GARWOOD

Pulaski Fire Marshal

The days are shorter, the outside temperature is lower, and in some places it’s cold, icy and snowy. No matter where you live, winter brings a change in season and now is the time to think about home heating safety.

Did you know that on average, fire departments in the U.S. respond to more than 60,000 home structure fires involving heating equipment each year? That also accounts for more than 945 deaths, more than 3,825 injuries and roughly $1 billion in direct property damage annually. Roughly half of all home-heating fires are reported during the months of December, January and February.

Pulaski and Pulaski County are not immune from these dangers and Pulaski Fire Department has already responded to more than one flue fire this fall. I cannot stress enough the importance of homeowners taking precautions that may not only prevent a fire, but may save their lives.

Fireplaces, chimneys and chimney connectors account for the largest share of home heating fires. Creosote build-up is the leading cause of chimney fires.

Chimneys and heating equipment need to be cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.

When installing wood burning stoves, owners should follow the manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional do the installation. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and owners should install and maintain CO detectors to avoid the risk of CO poisoning.

Owners should also check with their insurance companies and make sure of any local codes that may need to be met prior to installing or using heating equipment.

Some other tips to keep your winter heating season safe include:

•Always be sure to use the right kind of fuel specified by the manufacturer. DO NOT USE flammable liquids, trash, etc. in a wood stove and only use seasoned hardwood.

•Keep anything that can burn at least three feet from the heat source, such as furnace, wood stove, portable space heaters, fireplaces, even baseboard heaters.

•Make sure your alternative heaters have ‘tip switches,’ which are designed to automatically turn off the heater in the event they tip over.

•Never refill a space heater while it is operating or still hot. Refuel heaters only outdoors.

•Remember to turn off all portable heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.

•Place a sturdy screen or glass in front of a fireplace and allow ashes to cool before disposing of them in a metal container. (See the Wednesday, Nov. 14, edition of The Southwest Times for tips on properly disposing of ashes.) Hot embers can easily start an outdoors fire, thus putting lives, your home, other homes and natural resources in danger.

•Never use your oven as a heater.

•Install and maintain smoke detectors. Test them every month and replace the batteries twice a year.

For more assistance or safety tips, call Pulaski Fire Marshal’s Office at 994-8664 or Pulaski Fire Department at 994-8662

And remember, your home is your ‘dwelling’ you may or may not own it, but you and your family live there and it takes all of us to be fire safe.

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