Newton Fire warns to beware of home heating fires

COVINGTON -- Baby, it's cold outside, and the Newton County Fire Service warns that every year they see numerous homes burned due to careless use of heaters and fireplaces.

"We have had multiple home heating fires in Newton County this season," said Lt. Cydnie Taylor-Ridling, fire safety educator for NCFS. "Some resulted in a total loss of the home and others caused damage to the residence."

Taylor said the most important thing for home owners to remember is to take the time before temperatures plunge each year to have all heating resources, especially chimneys, inspected and cleaned by a professional.

"Have heating and air systems of all types serviced annually. Space heaters should be at least 3 feet from anything flammable. Do not leave unattended pets or children in a room with a space heater and do not run them while sleeping," Taylor warned, adding that electric heaters should be unplugged when not in use and an extension cord should not be used.

Also, she cautioned against using appliances such as an oven that were not made for indoor heating use to heat a room.

Taylor said every family should have an escape plan in case of fire and that all residents, from the youngest to the oldest, should know how to execute the plan.

"Practice with your entire family," she urged.

Taylor also said that working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are "paramount."

"Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas that you cannot smell or see. It is produced as a common by-product of the combustion (burning) of fossil fuels," she explained, adding that the list of fossil fuels includes natural gas, gasoline, propane, fuel oil and wood."Common sources of carbon monoxide include gasoline engines running in closed garages, fuel-burning space heaters or wood heaters with improper venting and blocked chimneys or vent pipes.

"Do not leave cars running inside a closed garage," she said. "Leaving a car running for an extended period of time, even in an open garage, can lean to dangerous carbon monoxide accumulation."

The National Fire Protection Association said an increase in home fires will be seen nationwide as temperatures become frigid.

"Half of all home heating fires occur during December, January and February, when we are fully utilizing our heating systems," said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications for NFPA.

She said that in 2009 heating equipment was involved in an estimated 58,900 reported home structure fires, 480 civilian deaths, 1,520 civilian injuries and $1.1 billion in direct property damage. Stationary and portable space heaters accounted for one-third or 32 percent of reported home heating fires, but nearly 80 percent of the home heating fire deaths; two-thirds or 66 percent of associated civilian injuries; and half or 52 percent of associated direct property damage.