Home heating safety tips

CAL FIRENovember 8, 2013 

To help reduce the number of home fires the Madera-Mariposa-Merced Unit is reminding the public that all home-heating equipment should be inspected. CAL FIRE is called to many home fires this time of year when the response could have been prevented by simple home heating equipment maintenance procedures. The following is a list of heating problems that are often overlooked.

When was the last time you cleaned the flue: Chimney sweeps in the area can be found on the internet and in the yellow pages of our local phone book under “chimney cleaning”. Also flue brushes can be rented from local wood-stove dealers for a minimal charge. This is also a good time to inspect the firebox and flue for cracks and damage.

Inspect all furnaces for obstructions and operation: Accumulations of dust and lint during the summer can lead to the question “Do you smell something burning” when the heater is used for the first time? Vacuuming of the duct openings will reduce the chances of this happening. Also, checking the grills of the floor and wall furnaces can find toys that may have been left there during the summer. This is a good time to replace furnace filters.

Check all gas appliances. Gas lines should be checked for wear or damage. Check venting of gas appliances for leaks or obstructions. Hundreds of people die each year in the United States from carbon monoxide poisoning. This toxic gas is odorless, tasteless, and colorless. Check your carbon monoxide alarm to make sure it is in proper working order.

Home Heating: Any fuel-burning appliance in your home is a potential source for carbon monoxide. If you suspect that you are experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, get fresh air immediately. Open all windows and doors for more ventilation, turn off any combustion appliances, and leave the house. You could lose consciousness and die from carbon monoxide poisoning if you do nothing.

Use Fireplace safely: Use only clean seasoned firewood. Do not burn paper or cardboard in the fireplace. Place a screen over the fireplace opening to prevent sparks from igniting flooring in front of the fireplace. Check the spark arrester over the chimney to be certain it is (1/2” mesh) to prevent sparks from igniting your roof. Many fires this time of year are caused by negligent disposal of fireplace ashes. Fireplace ashes can be hot for a week or more and should be disposed of with extreme care. A metal pail or bucket should be used to remove the ashes from the home. After the ashes are outside, they should be mixed with water in the bucket and left well away from any combustibles.

Portable heaters pose many dangers: Fuel fired heaters (usually kerosene) are illegal for use in California because they may deplete the oxygen supply in the home and cause asphyxiation. Portable electric heaters can cause fires when they come in contact with combustibles, such as towels, curtains, bed linens, toys, etc. A safe distance when placing a space heater is at least three feet from any combustible material. California statutes of the Health and Safety code prohibit the sale of un-vented heaters designed for the use inside the house. Free standing heaters should have a “tip over” shut off switch.

Candles: Never leave a burning candle unattended. Always keep candles away from children. When placing your candle remember to keep it away from decorations, pets, bedding, and curtains. Never place your candle on any type of cloth, doily, or wood; it is safer to place the candle on a metal surface or container. Never use a candle near a tree or as a decoration on a tree. Always extinguish any flame before you go to sleep at night or leave your home.

Poorly maintained heating devices have caused many fires in the past. Please take a few minutes to check your heater, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and practice your fire exit drill, to insure your families’ safety. Please stop by or call your local fire station for more information or visit us at www.fire.ca.gov.

— CAL FIRE

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