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Remember winter fire safety tips


February 04, 2009
With winter weather here in full force, it's important to remember that when you fire up those heating units, safety should be at the top of your mind.

Whether it be a fireplace, a kerosene heater or a wood stove, inattentiveness and recklessness can lead to serious injury or even death. Here's a list of tips that will help make sure your family stays safe during the winter months.

If you're using a kerosene heater:

•Be sure your heater is in good working condition. Inspect exhaust parts for carbon buildup. Be sure the heater has an emergency shut-off in case the heater is tipped over.

•Never use fuel-burning appliances without proper room venting. Burning fuel (coal, kerosene or propane) can produce deadly fumes.

•Use only the fuel recommended by the heater manufacturer. Never introduce a fuel into a unit not designed for that type of fuel.

•Keep kerosene or other flammable liquids stored in approved metal containers, in well ventilated storage areas, outside of the house.

•Never fill the heater while it is operating or hot. When refueling an oil or kerosene unit, avoid overfilling. Do not use cold fuel for it may expand in the tank as it warms up.

•Refueling should be done outside of the home.

•Keep young children away from the heater, especially when they are wearing night gowns or other loose clothing that can be easily ignited.

•When using a fuel burning appliance in the bedroom, be sure there is proper ventilation to prevent a buildup of carbon monoxide.

•Buy only heaters with the Underwriter's Labora-tory (UL) safety listing. Check to make sure it has a thermostat control mechanism and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over.

If you're using a wood stove or a fireplace:

•Do not use flammable liquids to start or accelerate any fire.

•Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace opening, to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out, unwanted material from going in and to help prevent the possibility of burns to occupants.

•The wood stove should be burned hot twice a day for 15 to 30 minutes to reduce the amount of creosote build up.

•Don't use excessive amounts of paper to building roaring fires in fireplaces. It is possible to ignite creosote in the chimney by overbuilding the fire.

•Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide.

•Before you go to sleep, be sure your fireplace fire is out. Never close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace. A closed damper will help the fire to heat up again and will force toxic carbon monoxide into the house.

•If synthetic logs are used, follow the directions on the package. Never break a synthetic log apart to quicken the fire or use more than one log at a time. They often burn unevenly, releasing higher levels of carbon monoxide.

•As a general rule for all heating devices, be sure to keep trash and other combustibles away from the heating system while it is on.

Information for this article was provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and United States Fire Administration.

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Schuler Bauer
Barbara Shaw
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