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Putting a Stop to Winter House Fires

Residential heating equipment is the leading cause of home fires that occur during winter months. Approximately one-half of all household heating fires take place during December, January, and February. In 2010 alone, heating equipment played a role in an estimated 57,100 reported fires of residential structures, causing $1.1 billion in direct property damage and resulting in 1,530 civilian injuries and 490 civilian deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Putting a stop to winter fires

These figures are staggering and illustrate the importance of preventing winter home fires. To maintain a fire-safe home, keep items that can burn at least three feet from heating equipment including fireplaces, wood stoves, portable space heaters, and furnaces. Keep children three feet from space heaters and open fires and never use the oven as a home heating source.

Central heating equipment, stationary space heating equipment, and water heaters should be installed by a qualified professional who follows manufacturer instructions and adheres to local codes. When operating a fuel burning space heater, use only the type of fuel specified by the product manufacturer. Chimneys and heating equipment should be inspected and cleaned by a qualified professional on an annual basis.

If a portable heater is used, turn it off before exiting a room or retiring to bed. A fireplace should feature a sturdy screen that prevents sparks from flying and fireplace ashes should be cool before they are placed into a metal container. As an extra safety precaution, this holder should be kept a safe distance from the home.

Smoke alarms should be tested monthly and carbon monoxide alarms should be installed and maintained to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning risk. Risk of CO2 poisoning increases when fuel-burning equipment is present. If smoke, fire, or carbon monoxide is detected, immediately leave the home and contact the local fire department and, if applicable, the gas company.

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