FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — As the snow piles up outside on Thursday, many people across Fairfield County will be putting their fireplaces, spaces heaters and other heating appliances to use—increasing the risk of a house fire.
An estimated 33,000 fires and 180 deaths occur each year due to home heating equipment, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. But most home heating fires can be prevented by taking precautions.
With a foot of snow on its way and the threat of power outages, residents should be careful when using a fireplace to heat their homes.
The Westport and Wilton Fire Departments offer a number of home heating tips to keep residents safe and warm. Here are some rules to keep in mind:
Fireplace safety/ash disposal:
- Open the fireplace damper before lighting the fire and leave it open until the ashes have cooled. This will prevent the buildup of poisonous gasses in the home.
- Use a sturdy fireplace screen.
- Let the ashes remain in the fireplace for several days until there are no remaining hot embers. Because they are hidden and well insulated, embers can stay hot for four to five days.
- Never put ashes in a combustible container. Many fires have occurred when ashes are cleaned up and placed in cardboard boxes or paper bags prior to cooling and placed in the trash. Never use a vacuum cleaner.
- If the fireplace is cleaned, ashes must be placed in a metal container with a tight fitting lid and stored away from the house. Your garage, house or deck are dangerous locations for ashes to cool.
- A chimney should be inspected each year and cleaned if necessary.
Space heaters/other heating equipment:
- Space heaters need space. Keep all things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment. Make sure the heater is placed on a flat level floor and not on a rug or carpet.
- Turn portable heaters off when you go to bed or leave a room.
- Plug power cords only into outlets with sufficient capacity and never into an extension cord.
- Inspect for cracked, frayed or broken plugs or loose connections. Replace before using.
- Never use gasoline in a kerosene heater. Even a small amount can be dangerous.
General fire safety:
- Never use an oven to heat your home.
- Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home (when one sounds, they all sound).
- Test smoke alarms at least once a month.
- Install and maintain a carbon monoxide alarm in a central location outside each sleeping area.