Winter requires home heating fire safety

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Yes, we know winter is here. With only a short break of warming temperatures over the past couple of weeks, we have felt the cold. With nights dipping down in the 20s, it’s definitely necessary to have some type of heat going in our homes.
Fire can be a good thing, but it can also be horrific. We’ve had several severe house fires in our little county over the past few weeks and that is not out of the ordinary for this time of year.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths. The data also shows that half of home heating fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February. That means that we’re probably only about midway between the worst time of the year for home heating fires.
So what can we do to help us not become a statistic? The NFPA has a list that I’d like to share on simple steps you can take to prevent most heating-related fires from happening.
•Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
•Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
•Never use your oven to heat your home.
•Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
•Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
•Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
•Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
•Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
•Test smoke alarms at least once a month.
By taking these and other precautions, you can help avoid heating-related fires. Stay warm, and as always, Be Safe Out There.
Shelly Butts is Emergency Management Coordinator for Madison County.

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