State Fire Marshal Reminds Ohioans to Heat Homes Safely
The Division of State Fire Marshal is reminding Ohioans to focus on fire safety when heating their homes this winter and to use extra care if utilizing secondary heating sources like space heaters. "Proper installation, use and maintenance of winter heating devices are essential for reducing the risks of fire and carbon-monoxide poisoning," says Interim State Fire Marshal Donald C. Cooper. "Home heating fires in Ohio are often caused by human error, particularly through the misuse of portable heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces."
In 2008, eight people died and 34 people were injured in 557 heating-related fires in homes throughout Ohio. Fire Marshal Cooper stresses the importance of having your home's heating system checked annually by a qualified professional. Furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves and their chimneys should be inspected and cleaned prior to the start of every heating season.
Be certain that alternate sources of heating, such as portable electric and kerosene heaters and wood burning stoves, are used according to their instructions and with extreme caution. For any space heater remember: Space Heaters Need Space - at least three feet from anything that can burn.
To avoid falling victim to carbon monoxide - a colorless, odorless, potentially deadly gas produced by fuel-burning equipment, such as furnaces, wood stoves, fireplaces, and kerosene heaters - install at least one carbon monoxide alarm near sleeping areas. Call the fire department if the alarm sounds.
Fire Marshal Cooper offers the following additional safety tips to help you have a fire safe winter.
Fireplaces and Wood Burning Stoves
- Allow enough clearance between a wood burning stove and combustible materials such as walls, floors and ceilings.
- A wood stove should be placed on an approved stove board to protect your floor from heat and hot coals.
- Make sure the flue is open before lighting a fire and never close the flue while a fire is still smoldering.
- Use a fireplace screen to prevent any sparks from reaching out and igniting nearby objects.
- Never use gasoline or lighter fluid to start a fire.
- The immediate area in front of a fireplace (approximately 3 feet) should not have a rug, carpet or exposed wood flooring.
- When lighting a gas fireplace, strike your match first, then turn on the gas.
- Burn only dry, seasoned wood, and dispose of the cooled ashes in a closed metal container outside and away from your home.
- Never leave a fire burning unattended in the fireplace.
Portable Space Heaters
- When buying a space heater, look for a control feature that automatically shuts off the power if the heater falls over.
- Never leave a heater on when you are not in the room or when you go to sleep, and do not leave children or pets unattended around any heating source. Unplug the heater when you are not using it.
- Don't use an extension cord with an electric portable heater. The current to the heater could melt the cord and cause a fire.
- Don't plug more than one heating device into an outlet.
- Never use electric heaters near water - as in your bathroom or near a water heater.
- Make sure the room has proper ventilation.
- Fill your heater with only crystal clear, K-1 kerosene. Do not use any fluid that is not recommended for your heater. Refuel outside, and only after the heater has cooled down.
- Check the wick every couple of weeks during the heating season. If the wick is dirty, clean it according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Because a kerosene heater has a constant open flame, it should not be used in a room where there are flammable solvents, aerosol sprays, gasoline or any type of oil.
Propane and Natural Gas
- Like many other efficient fuels, propane is highly flammable. That means it can be dangerous if not handled properly.
- If using a propane fueled heater, make sure it is designed for indoor use and properly vented. Read all of the manufacturer's instructions and make sure it is properly vented.
- Do not use propane barbecues (or any other type of barbecue) indoors.
- If you smell gas, do not operate any switches, appliances or thermostats. A spark from one of these could ignite the gas. Get everyone outside and away from the building. Shut off the gas supply. Call the fire department from a neighbor's phone.
- Do not attempt to heat your home by opening the door to your natural gas or electric oven.
- If you have a portable generator, make sure you place it in a well-ventilated area. Read the manufacturer's instructions before using it.
- Be sure generator fuel is properly and safely stored according to fire regulations. Never store fuel or flammable liquids in a basement or near an open flame. Always refuel the generator outdoors and away from any ignition sources.
- If you choose to have a generator permanently connected to your home's electrical system, make sure a licensed electrician installs it and be sure to notify your electric company. Improperly installed generators can cause multiple types of hazards not only for you but for power company workers.
Also, make sure you have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home and inside each sleeping area to alert you in the event of a fire. Test the batteries on a weekly basis.
The mission of the Ohio Department of Commerce is to fulfill our legal obligations to safeguard the public, while striving to regulate commerce in a reasonable, fair and efficient manner. We are one of the chief regulatory agencies for the State of Ohio and have seven divisions, including: Financial Institutions, Industrial Compliance & Labor, Liquor Control, Real Estate, Securities, State Fire Marshal, and Unclaimed Funds. For more information on the Ohio Department of Commerce, visit their website at http://www.com.ohio.gov/.