Winter is prime time for house fires. More house fires occur during December, January and February than in any other months, and though some of them are due to Christmas trees and lights or candles, most of them can be traced back to home heating issues. Power outages especially make fires more likely, since most alternative forms of heat, like kerosene heaters, are simply not as safe as conventional sources. Fireplaces require extra caution too, in spite of their cozy appearance. To keep your family safe this winter, keep these six things in mind:
Give Space Heaters Space
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Space heaters are a great way to heat small rooms or add extra warmth to targeted areas of large rooms. However, space heaters are a major cause of winter home fires, and should be treated with caution. Keep a three-foot “clear” zone around all space heaters. Objects which are closer than this can overheat and catch fire. In addition, children and pets can be severely burned by space heaters.
If you’re using an electric space heater, make sure that it has a safety mechanism that shuts it off if it tips over. Kerosene heaters are much less safe, and are far from ideal for indoor use; if you must use kerosene, make sure the area is well-ventilated and that your wick is trimmed properly.
Don’t Use Your Kitchen Stove For Heating
While doing some baking or cooking a thick pot of stew can add a little warmth to your home, using your cooktop or oven as an actual heat source is a recipe for disaster. Electric stoves are a fire hazard due to lack of safe covers over the elements, and gas stoves present a double dose of danger. Not only is the open flame likely to start a fire, gas stoves produce carbon monoxide—which can put you to sleep forever.
Be Careful What You Burn
If you heat with a fireplace or pellet stove, or if you use a kerosene heater for backup heat, using the proper fuel source is vital. Never attempt to burn charcoal in a fireplace or stove, and never try to use a barbecue grill for heat even if the power has been out for days. Charcoal puts out large amounts of carbon monoxide, a deadly gas. Charcoal is not the same as fuel coal, and is intended only for outdoor use with good ventilation.
Kerosene heaters should only be filled out-of-doors, and only with heating-grade kerosene. Never try to burn diesel or lantern oil in one, and never, ever use gasoline. Using gasoline in a kerosene heater can cause not just a fire, but an explosion.
Check Your Smoke Alarms
Working smoke alarms are a must, especially during the winter months. Most fire departments will check your smoke alarms for you if you’re unsure what to do, and many will even provide you with alarms for any rooms that are missing one. Installing a carbon monoxide alarm can also be a literal lifesaver.
Give Your Heat Source A Checkup
Although it’s not common, a faulty heating and cooling system can also start a fire, as can debris buildup in the system. A winter furnace maintenance checkup ensures that everything is working properly and your fire risk is low.
Don’t be a statistic. Follow these tips to stay safe this winter, even if the power goes out.