CRFD Asking Citizens to Use Caution While Heating Their Homes

This week according to the National Weather Service, the Columbia area is expected to see below average temperatures for several days. Nightly lows on some evenings could hover around or dip below freezing.

For this reason CRFD wants to remind our citizens of safety precautions that they must take before firing up sources for home heating.

“Fireplaces and space heaters are just a few things that give us trouble each and every year when the temperatures drop,” said Columbia-Richland Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins, “The key steps to heating your home safely is to (1) make sure that all heating equipment is working properly, (2) make sure all equipment is powered and used properly and (3) use EXTREME caution when using heating sources that have open flames. Above all else NEVER compromise your safety or the safety of your friends and loved ones in order to heat your home.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries and the third leading cause of home fire deaths. Fire departments across the U.S. responded to an estimated average of 48,530 fires involving heating equipment PER YEAR from 2014 through 2018. These fires resulted in annual loses of 500 civilian deaths and caused thousands of injuries and billions in property damages.

Here’s a few tips to heat your home safely this winter, courtesy of NFPA:

  • Keep anything that can burn (including carpet) at least 3 feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.  Only use space heaters on hard surfaces e.g.: hardwood, tile, etc.

  • Have a 3-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. Also make sure your home heating equipment is UL  listed.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed. Also consider purchasing space heaters with a ‘kill switch’ that will turn the unit off if it tips over.
  • Power your space heater by plugging the device DIRECTLY into a wall outlet! DO NOT use extension cords or power strips to power the space heater! Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Make sure your 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 smoke alarms at least once a month.
  • Never use a portable generator inside your home. Place it outside and at least 10 feet away from the building.
  • Install wood burning stoves following manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional do the installation. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
  • Install and maintain CO alarms to avoid the risk of CO poisoning. If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company. Make sure that CO alarms are on each level of your home.