Winter months are peak time for heating fires

Published 4:02 am Friday, December 14, 2012

Special to The Post-Searchlight

As temperatures continue to drop in the months ahead, the risk of home heating fires peaks, according to a press release from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

In fact, December, January and February are the leading months for home fires, when half of all home heating fires occur.

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“The use of heating equipment largely contributes to the peak in U.S. home fires during the winter months,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications at the NFPA.

According to NFPA’s most recent report, “Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment,” home heating equipment was involved in an estimated 57,100 reported home structure fires, 490 civilian deaths, 1,530 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage in 2010.

Stationary and portable space heaters accounted for one-third (32 percent) of reported home heating fires, but 80 percent of the home heating fire deaths, two-thirds (67 percent) of associated civilian injuries, and half (52 percent) of associated direct property damage.

“Space heaters clearly present the greatest risk of home heating fires,” Carli said. “No matter what type of heating system people may use, we can all reduce our risk by taking simple safety precautions.”

Below are NFPA’s tips for safely heating your home this winter:

• All heaters need space. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.

• Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.

• Never use your oven to heat your home.

• Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.

• Have heating equipment and chimneys inspected and cleaned each year by a qualified professional.

• Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.

• Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel-burning space heaters.

• Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.

• Test all smoke alarms monthly and replace the batteries once a year, or when they begin to chirp, which means the batteries are running low.

• Install carbon monoxide (CO) alarms outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Test the alarms monthly.