As one-year ends and a new year begins, it’s a good time to check some things around the house and do what we can to help prevent fires.
One thing to do is check your smoke detectors. Use the ‘test’ button on it to make sure it’s working properly, and if it still has a removeable battery, replace it with a 10-year sealed battery unit. Also check to make sure there is smoke detector on every floor of your home.
Guy Swartwout with the New York State Office of Fire Prevention & Control says that heating equipment is among the leading causes of home fires in both New York and the United States, and that very often, those fires are the result of a lack of maintenance or simple acts of carelessness.
Here are some things to remember:
- To prevent fires, keep furnishings and other combustibles 36 inches from all heating sources. A heating source too close to combustibles is the leading cause of fires due to home heating.
- Store matches and other fire-starting appliances out of the reach of children. Fires started by children often have tragic results.
- Proper maintenance and an annual inspection of heat pumps, furnaces, space heaters, wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and chimney connections by qualified specialists can prevent fires and save lives.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation, venting, fueling, maintenance and repair.
- Review the owner’s manual to make sure you remember the operating and safety features.
If you use a space heater, do not place it where it is possible for small children or pets to fall against it or to receive a contact burn. Avoid the use of extension cords with electric heaters, and always turn them off before leaving the room or going to bed.
Creosote accumulation is the leading cause of chimney fires. A chimney that is dirty, blocked or is in disrepair can inhibit proper venting of smoke up the flue and can also cause a chimney fire. Nearly all residential fires originating in the chimney are preventable. An annual chimney inspection by a qualified chimney sweep can prevent fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Swartwout shares these tips for using wood Burning Appliances and Fireplaces:
- Do not burn trash in the wood stove or fireplace. Burn only well-seasoned hardwoods.
- Be sure the fire you build fits your fireplace or stove, don’t overload it.
- Be sure wood stoves are installed at least 36 inches away from the wall.
- Keep combustible materials well away from the fireplace, stove and chimney. Keep the area around them clean.
- Always use a fireplace screen to prevent sparks from leaving the fireplace and starting a fire.
- Keep wood stoves and fireplaces free of excess ash buildup. Excessive ash buildup prevents good circulation of air needed for combustion. When removing ashes, use a metal container with a tight-fitting cover. Always place ashes in an outside location away from structures. Ashes that seem cool may contain a smoldering charcoal that can start a fire.
And perhaps most importantly, never leave a fire unattended. IT’s also a good idea to be prepared and practice a home escape plan with your family, just in case.