Now that the weather is getting colder, you may be turning up the furnace, building a fire in the fireplace, or digging out that portable space heater. But did you know that home heating is the second leading cause of fires in Minnesota, behind cooking? In 2013 there were 372 heating-related fires in Minnesota, a 25% increase from 2012. With a few simple precautions, you can prevent most home heating fires.
Fireplaces and Chimneys
- Have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned annually to prevent a build-up of creosote, which can lead to a fire in the chimney.
- Never burn trash, charcoal, or plastics in a fireplace – they can cause pollutants, including carbon monoxide, to escape into your home and often burn hotter than wood, making them more likely to start a fire in the chimney.
- Use a sturdy glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace to prevent sparks and ashes from flying out of the fireplace.
- When disposing of ashes, wait until they are completely cool, wet them down, and store them outside in a metal container with a lid.
In this video, Saint Paul Fire Investigator Jamie Novak gives some more fireplace safety tips.
- Have your furnace cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional annually and change the filter monthly.
- Never use a furnace that is in disrepair. Malfunctioning furnaces can cause dangerous or deadly levels of carbon monoxide (CO) in your home.
- Carbon monoxide is called “The Silent Killer” because it is colorless and odorless, so make sure you have a working CO detector within ten feet of every bedroom and on every level of your home.
Portable Space Heaters
- Portable space heaters are only intended to be used for a short period of time.
- Plug them in directly to an outlet (don’t use an extension cord) and make sure they are at least three feet away from all combustible materials such as curtains, furniture, bedding, pets, and people.
- Children should never be left unattended in a room with a space heater. Be sure to turn off the space heater when you leave the room or go to sleep.
- Keep all materials that might catch on fire, people and pets, at least three feet away from all heating sources including furnaces, fireplaces, and portable space heaters.
- Never use your stove, oven, or grill to heat your home!
- Make sure you have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Test them monthly and replace the batteries at least once a year. Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years and carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced every 5 years.
If you are a Saint Paul homeowner and need new smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors, the Saint Paul Fire Department will provide and install them free of charge through Project Safe Haven. For more information about Project Safe Haven or to sign up, call 651-228-6273 or go to www.stpaul.gov/fire and click on the tab for Project Safe Haven.