As temperatures are expected to reach freezing tonight, Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins of the Columbia Fire Department urges citizens of the City of Columbia and Richland County to use caution with heat sources as some also represent a leading cause of U.S. home fires and fire fatalities.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), half of all home-heating fires occur during the winter months. NFPA research shows that during 2011 home heating equipment was involved in more than 53,600 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated loss of more than 400 civilian deaths, more than 1,520 civilian injuries and roughly $893 million in direct property damage.
Although Chief Jenkins does not recommend the use of space heaters he understands that citizens will use them as a secondary or even primary heat source but implores you not to leave them unattended, don’t go to sleep with them on and to keep combustibles at least three feet away.
By following these basic fire safety precautions and making small modifications, you can greatly reduce the risk of home heating fires.
•All heaters need space. Keep things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
•Use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
•Install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instruction. Have a qualified professional install the equipment.
•Make sure all fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. CO poisoning can cause illness and even death.
•Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms inside your home to provide early warning of carbon monoxide.
•Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional.
•Turn space heaters off when you leave a room or go to sleep.
•Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
•Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations, and flammable materials.
•Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces. Leave glass doors open while burning a fire.
•Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces. Otherwise you may cause creosote buildup that could lead to a chimney fire.