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Winter Home Heating Safety

This month we are reviewing home heating equipment as another leading cause of home fires. Space Heaters are singled out as responsible for one third of all home heating fires. Despite not being the Number #1 cause of home heating fires, the sobering statistics are that space heaters fires are responsible for 9 out of 10 deaths and 4 out of 5 injuries related to home heating equipment. Fifty percent of these fires occur in December, January, and February. Safety tips for preventing these fires are reviewed below. As we review these tips, keep the Fire Triangle in mind. This principle states that a fire can occur only in the presence of oxygen, heat and fuel. The icon below illustrates this interdependency.

Fire Triangle GVFD Dec 2023 copy

Applying an example of the fire triangle to our home space heater, the heater is the heat source. If the space heater is located immediately next to the comfortable chair with newspapers and magazines at our feet, we have a fuel source. Oxygen comprises about 21 % of room air. This scenario has all that is needed to represent a fire risk. The fire triangle is a common denominator for many fire safety recommendations.

Winter Home Safety Tips Jan 2024
  • Maintain a three-foot distance between heating equipment (furnace, fireplace, and wood stove) and anything flammable. Readers of fire safety tips will note this three-foot distance is a familiar for fire safety. Examples include keep a three-foot distance for cooking from stove and any flammable object; Keep a three-foot distance between the Fireplace and anything combustible.
  • Ensure that the room with the heating equipment is properly ve Never use the kitchen oven to heat your home.
  • Whatever type of heating equipment you have, be sure it is installed by a professional.
  • Always use the correct fuel for your heating
  • Turn off the heating appliance when leaving the room or your house. Expressed differently, never leave a heater
GVFD CO Detector

For Gas Operated Space Heaters:

  • Always make sure the room is properly Poor ventilation can cause carbon monoxide (CO) to accumulate. As CO is colorless and odorless, a CO detector is recommended when using gas heaters. In fact, having a home CO detector is recommended for all homes, regardless of the type of heating equipment.

For Electric Space Heaters:

  • Always plug directly into the Do not use an extension cord.
  • Be sure the cord is not frayed, and the plug is in good condition prior to plugging in the heater.
  • Do not use an electric space heater near

Fireplaces and Chimneys. 

  • Always use a fireplace appropriate screen to prevent embers, sparks and ashes from leaving the fireplace.
  • Use fireplace appropriateDisposeofashesinasafeway.
  • Allow ashes to cool and transfer them to a metal container. Keep the container at a safe distance from the house (in this instance 10 feet).

Chimneys require diligent attention. Chimney fires are notable for the very extensive damage they cause, and the extensive labor and expense required for repairing and rebuilding. Signs of chimney blockage can include Creosote or soot buildup, evidence of small animals in the chimney, and collapse of bricks within the chimney.

Cool Your Ashes

Common causes of chimney fires:

GVGD Chimney Fire

Creosote Buildup: Creosote is formed when wood burns too slowly usually because it is not burning at a heat of 250 degrees or hotter. Wet wood also causes creosote to burn more slowly. Creosote is highly flammable and thus must be addressed proactively to prevent chimney fires.

What are the signs of creosote buildup or when will you know the chimney needs cleaning?  A homeowner may note any of the following which can point to a chimney problem:

  • Fires are more difficult to start and remain
  • Fireplace odor is stronger and more frequent than The example given is that the odor is similar to a campfire.
  • Animal or evidence of pests in Animals slow down air flow and contribute to creosote buildup in this way.

Bird Nests: Bird nests clog the chimney, and often the only evidence of a nest is smoke escaping into the room. A chimney chase or chimney crown can prevent birds from nesting in your fireplace.

Chimney bricks: The chimney may be damaged and cause blockage. This may be difficult for a homeowner to identify. Signs of a chimney blockage should alert the homeowner to call a chimney sweep.

We close this article with the usual reminder about keeping your smoke alarms up to date with functional batteries. Next month we will review tools that alert us to fires, and an escape plan to have in place, in the event of a fire.

Your Fire District wishes you a
Safe, Happy, and Healthy 2024.