MISSOULA – Firefighters are reminding residents to refresh their safety measures when staying warm this winter after several recent fires that were started by heating devices.
The Missoula Rural Fire District has been on the scene of several fires started by problems like dirty chimneys or space heaters.
MRFD Captain Ron Lubke says it’s simply a case of people forgetting safe winter practices.
“It’s very similar to how we have a number of vehicle accidents and fender benders with the first couple of snow falls,” Lubke said. “As the temperatures drop and people starting turning on the furnaces or firing up the wood stove we have an increase in fires as a result too.”
“And a lot of times it’s just that they’re simply kind of out of sync with using those things and they haven’t necessarily checked them out before they used them,” he added.
Lubke says heating fires this time of the year can be especially tragic because they might be ignited in the colder hours overnight and in the early mornings when people are sleeping.
He advises everyone to check furnaces and fireplaces, make sure furniture or debris isn’t in contact with baseboard heaters and to be especially careful with space heaters.
Here are some suggestions to keep your home warm and safe:
- Have your fireplace and wood stoves inspected before you begin using them each year. Have the chimney cleaned to remove creosote, which can ignite and start a chimney fire.
- Keep anything that can burn 3-feet away from space heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves, and radiators. Remember that skin burns too. Make sure that people, especially children, and pets stay 3-feet away.
- The openings around fireplaces and wood stoves can get hot enough to burn skin, so keep children and pets far away from them. When you’re finished with your fire, put it out before you leave home or fall asleep. When you clean up, place the ashes inside a metal can with a lid. Store the can outside, away from the home, until the ashes are completely cold.
- Use a tempered glass or metal screen over the fireplace opening to keep sparks inside. Never use papers, trash or liquid fuel. Burn only clean dry wood in fireplaces and wood or wood pellets in wood stoves.
- Never use gasoline to start a fire. There is no safe way to start a fire with gasoline.
- Only use portable space heaters that have been listed by a testing laboratory such as UL (look for the laboratory’s label). These heaters should have an automatic shut-off switch so that if they are tipped over, they will turn off on their own. Plug portable electric heaters directly into the wall outlet; don’t use an extension cord or power strip.
- Turn space heaters off when you leave the room or before falling asleep. Never leave space heaters on unattended.
- Make sure any heating appliances such as furnaces or boilers are inspected and operating properly. If heating appliances are equipped with filters, check with the manufacturer’s recommendations on how often filters should be changed or cleaned
Story by Dennis Bragg, MTN News