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Safety key to preventing home fires when first cold snaps occur

Posted on Monday, November 3, 2014 at 6:01 pm

While Middle Tennessee experienced record-setting warm temperatures this week, it’s safe to say that fall and cooler weather is nipping at the heels of the recent warm spell. So when the first cold snaps of the fall season occur, be safe rather than sorry when cranking up the heat.

Statistics show that a wave of home fires usually follow those first waves of cool nighttime air.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is urging Tennesseans to take fire safety precautions now in preparation for the colder nights making way into the state.

“With colder temperatures come more opportunities for residential fires,” says State Fire Marshal Gary West. “We begin using heating sources that have been dormant for many months, and this can lead to fire safety issues. Prepare for the heating season early to reduce your family’s risk of a home fire.”

Though fuel costs have dipped a bit lately, it’s still not cheap and the cost of utilities and fuels causes many Tennesseans to search for alternate sources for home heating. Wood stoves, space heaters and fireplaces are, however, major factors in home heating fires.

In 2013, heating equipment was involved in 654 Tennessee structure fires. These fires resulted in 12 deaths, 14 injuries, and $9.16 million in direct property damage.

Here are some simple steps that can 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.

• 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.

• Plug portable heaters directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.

• Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.

• Burn only dry, seasoned wood in fireplaces and woodstoves. Never burn garbage or use flammable liquids to start a fire.

• 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.

• If the pilot light of your gas heater goes out, allow 5 minutes or more for the gas to go away before trying to relight the pilot. Follow manufacturer’s instructions when relighting the pilot.

• Do not allow gas to accumulate, and light the match before you turn on the gas to the pilot to avoid risk of flashback.

Don’t forget to install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home and to test them monthly. Develop and practice a home fire escape plan with everyone in your home. The plan should include two ways out of every room and a designated meeting place outside where everyone can be accounted for.

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