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Colder temps could bring greater risk for home heating fires

The possibility of chillier weather over the coming weeks and months will no doubt leave more people turning to their home heating systems to keep warm.

Unfortunately, that move can lead to a higher chance of a major fire if those systems are not properly maintained.

“This is a grim reality of the winter season,” said Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins, “Having proper heat is a necessity for comfort. It shouldn’t have to result in putting your home and loved ones at risk. We strongly encourage all area residents to make sure their home heating heating equipment is ready for the months ahead. We also want them to practice caution while using space heaters and fireplaces as a primary source of heat.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) heating equipment was involved in more than 54,000 reported U.S. home fires from 2011 to 2015. Each year heating systems are a leading cause of home fire deaths.

Here’s a few tips to heat your home safely this winter:

  • 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 cleaned and inspected every 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.