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Boreal Community Media

Winter Home Heating and Fire Safety Top of Mind as Temps Drop

Nov 07, 2017 04:55PM ● By Editor

Media Release from Cook County.
November 8, 2017 –
 In the winter months, our heating, lighting, cooking, and holiday activities increase dramatically — and with them, the risk of residential fires. Deaths and injury can be reduced with proper understanding and safe use of heating equipment.

“As we gear up for many cold months ahead, safety should be your first consideration when heating your home,” said Valerie Marasco, Director – Office of Emergency Management & Public Information. “Cook County Emergency Management wants to remind residents about some important facts regarding the threat of home fires and tips on how to avoid them. In addition, through a partnership with the American Red Cross, the Office of Emergency Management & Public Information and Cook County’s local Volunteer Fire Departments are offering free, installed smoke alarms in area homes through the Home Fire Safety Campaign to any residents to call and register.”

The high cost of heating fuels and utilities have caused many Americans to search for alternative methods of home heating. Wood burning stoves are growing in popularity and space heaters are selling rapidly, or coming out of storage. Fireplaces are burning wood and man-made logs. All these methods of heating may be acceptable — but without caution, they’re a major contributing factor in residential fires.

Remember these home heating safety tips and guidelines:

Portable & Space Heaters
  • Portable heaters come in many shapes and sizes and use a variety of fuels or power sources. When purchasing or using a space or portable heater, make sure it carries a UL or FM label and is approved for the use you intended.
  • Place any portable heating device at least three feet away from anything combustible, including paper, drapery, bedding and clothing.
  • Space heaters need constant watching and should always be turned off when you leave your home and before bedtime.
  • Drying mittens or other combustibles over a space or portable heater is a fire danger.
  • Make sure all cords on electric heaters are in good shape and checked periodically for any frays or breaks in the insulation surrounding the wires.
  • Check the cord and outlet occasionally for overheating; if it feels hot, turn it off.
Liquid-Fueled & Gas-Burning Heaters
  • Any heating appliance with an open flame needs to be vented to the outside to eliminate the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • When using these types of heating devices, manufacturers' instructions and recommendations should be followed faithfully.
  • Units must be cooled before refueling; this should take place outside of the structure. Fuel must be stored in a container approved by the fire department and clearly marked with the fuel name.
Wood Stoves
  • Follow manufacturers' recommendations for proper installation, use and maintenance.
  • Make sure the stove is properly ventilated. Other household venting appliances can diminish proper venting of your wood stove. Test all other appliances (bathroom fans, stovetop venting, HVAC units, etc.) to ensure that they don’t interfere with proper stove venting.
  • Maintain clearances around stoves, flue pipes, and floors according to manufacturers' recommendations.
  • Check all connections at the beginning of the heating season.
  • If you have questions about fire protection devices, contact your local fire department.
Fireplaces & Wood Burning Stoves
  • Chimneys need to be inspected by a professional sweep prior to the start of each heating season and periodically throughout the year.
  • Have chimneys cleaned if there is a buildup of creosote. Creosote is a chemical substance that forms when wood burns and builds up on the chimney wall – it is highly combustible.
  • Fireplace screens should be firmly in place when you burn fires.
  • Burn only clean, well-seasoned, dry firewood in the fireplace.
Generator Safety
  • Use generators or other fuel-powered machines outside the home only. CO fumes are odorless and can quickly overwhelm you indoors.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions when using generators.
  • Use the appropriate size and type of power cord to carry the electric load. Overloaded cords can overheat and cause fires.
  • Shut off generators when refueling.
  • Never run cords under rugs or carpets where heat might build up or damage to a cord may go unnoticed.
  • Never connect a generator to another power source such as a power line. The reverse flow of electricity or 'backfeed' can electrocute an unsuspecting utility worker.
Cooking Safety:
Families and guests tend to gather in the kitchen, but it can be the most hazardous room in the house if you don't practice safe cooking behavior. Careless use of cooking equipment, usually a range or stovetop, is the leading cause of home fires and home-fire injuries in the United States. Always have someone watching the stove; never leave cooking unattended. Look while you cook!

To request to have smoke alarms installed in your home at no cost, call the Office of Emergency Management & Public Information at 218-387-3059

For more resources about home fire safety and smoke alarms, visit the State Fire Marshal website.