As the cooler weather months arrive, most homes need a little extra help from additional heat sources such as a fireplace or space heater.
However, taking precaution to use these heat sources safely can greatly decrease the chance of having a preventable home fire.
The San Bernardino County Fire Department urges residents to keep safe while they keep warm.
The following tips are some cool weather safety precautions to help you and your loved ones stay warm in the safest way possible.
----- FIRE SAFETY TIPS for fireplaces and other heating devices:
• Before the cold weather arrives, change furnace filters to keep equipment running efficiently and safely.
• Place all space heaters at least three feet away from furniture, walls, curtains, or anything that burns. Make sure to turn them off when you leave home or go to bed. Contact the Gas Company or a heating contractor if you suspect that your heater is not functioning properly.
• Check thermostats to make sure the furnace doesn’t turn itself on before you’re ready for it, and give yourself time to check furnace vents, especially floor vents, to make sure they’re not blocked. Furniture and drapes placed over heating vents can sometimes catch fire.
• Never install unvented gas heaters in bedrooms or bathrooms, where the small room size poses an added danger of rapid carbon monoxide build-up.
• Have your chimneys inspected and cleaned by a professional before each heating season and have it cleaned regularly.
• Be sure to have a proper spark arrester on all chimney tops to prevent burning embers from blowing out of the top of the chimney and starting a fire on your roof or a neighbor’s. Screens should have openings of no more than a half-inch -- a quarter-inch if you live next to a wilderness area. If you have a manufactured fireplace, check with the manufacturer for installation requirements before placing anything on top of the fireplace.
• Never use a fireplace during high winds, especially if you have a wood shake roof.
• Make sure tree branches are cleared at least 10 feet from the chimney opening.
• Store paper, kindling, and other flammable material at least three feet from the fireplace.
• Store cooled ashes in a tightly sealed metal container. Cardboard boxes, paper bags, and plastic containers quickly catch fire. Even apparently cool ashes may contain enough heat to ignite these containers.
• Be sure that you have a fireplace screen large enough to block flying embers and rolling logs from escaping onto your floor.
• Never burn trash, paper, or green wood in your fireplace. These materials cause a combustible build-up on the lining of your fireplace that may eventually catch fire, possibly damaging the chimney and threatening your home.
• Make sure that any fireplace fires are completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.
• Remember, never use a charcoal-burning barbecue or heater indoors. When burned indoors, charcoal produces deadly amounts of carbon monoxide gas that is odorless, tasteless, and invisible. Charcoal-burning devices are for outdoor use only!
----- BEFORE LIGHTING ANY FIRE
• Check to see that the flue is open.
• Keep a screen in front of the fireplace at all times, especially when fire is burning.
• Before closing the flue, be sure that the fire is completely out.
• Check the phone directory for a professional fireplace contractor to assist you with any needs or questions you may have.
San Bernardino County Fire also reminds you to make sure your home is equipped with working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. Don’t forget to install, test, and maintain these devices in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. An approved smoke detector with fresh batteries doubles your chances of surviving a fire in your home.
Provide two means of escape from every room and make sure everyone knows where to meet after leaving the house. Develop and practice a fire escape plan for your household. Remember, never return to a burning building for any reason. Your belongings can be replaced -- you can’t!
For more information, visit www.sbcfire.org.
(Tracey Martinez is the public information officer for the San Bernardino County Fire Department.)