A winter fire safety warning

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By The Staff

With cooler temperatures in the air, many residents will fire up their space heaters, one of the leading sources of fires in the nation. If precautions aren’t taken and units aren’t serviced properly, fireplaces, space heaters and central heating systems could spark a devastating house fire.

Fireplace and chimney fires are one of the largest contributors to house fires. “Certain types of wood, especially pine, will produce creosote (a sappy, flammable coating) which sticks to the sides of the chimney and eventually can ignite a fire,” said Marion County Fire Rescue (MCFR) Lt. Mike Felton. “We recommend citizens hire a professional chimney sweeper once a year.”

Space heaters, portable and fixed (including wood stoves) cause most home heating fires, or 74 percent. Leaving the heat source unattended, especially at night while people are sleeping and keeping combustibles too close are the main causes. Centralized heating systems also cause a portion of reported heating fires, but equipment malfunctions are typically to blame.

To prevent house fires from heating sources this winter, MCFR firefighters recommend residents hire a licensed professional to inspect and service heating devices at least once a year as well as follow these safety tips:

Fireplace and

Chimney Safety

Use only seasonal woods.

Build smaller, hotter fires that burn more evenly and cause less smoke.

Never burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, Christmas trees or trash. (These items can ignite chimney fires.)

Keep the area around a fireplace clean and free from flammables like stockings, rugs and other home furnishings.

Hire a licensed and insured professional chimney sweeper to clean and inspect your chimney and fireplace.

Space Heater Safety

Turn off space heaters when you are not in the room or when you go to sleep.

Keep space heaters at least three feet away from combustibles, children and pets.

Place space heaters on a flat, level surface where they can’t fall, break open or ignite combustibles.

Don’t use extension cords unless absolutely necessary.

Check cords and wires periodically to ensure that they have not frayed or eroded.

Purchase space heaters that consumer safety watchdogs such as

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) have approved.

Purchase space heaters that have an automatic shut-off should the heater tip over.

Centralized Heating

Systems Safety

Hire a licensed and insured professional to inspect the system annually and service as needed.

Keep units away from combustibles, especially when stored in a closet.

When buying a new unit, make sure it carries the mark of an independent testing lab and hire a qualified technician to install the unit properly.

Clean or replace furnace filters annually.

Heather Danenhower is the Public Information Officer for Marion County Fire Rescue. Call her at 291-8000, or e-mail heather.danenhower@marioncountyfl.org.