Keeping your home safe during the winter months

Heating equipment is the leading cause of home fires in the winter. Portable and electric space heaters are the most dangerous. But it is possible to be warm and safe this winter by following these tips. In our effort to enhance the safety of the public, here are some ways you can help prevent home fires.

Please print our pdf to help you check off these safety measures.

Portable Space Heaters:

  • Make sure your heater has been tested for safety. Look on the bottom for a label such as ETL, UL or CSA.
  • Space heaters need to have plenty of space around them.
  • Place space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn – including furniture, people, pets and curtains.
  • There should always be an adult in the room when a space heater is on. Turn off space heaters before leaving a room or going to sleep.
  • Supervise children and pets at all times when a portable space heater is in use.
  • Never use space heaters to dry clothing or blankets.

Fireplaces and Wood Stoves:

  • Burn only seasoned hardwood like oak, ash or maple. Do not burn trash, cardboard boxes or Christmas trees because these items burn unevenly, and may contain poisons or cause a home fire.
  • Have a professional chimney sweep inspect chimneys every year. They will fix any cracks, blockages and leaks and clean out any build-up in the chimney that could start a fire.
  • Creosote logs can be used to help reduce the build-up of creosote in fireplaces. Check labels to make sure the log has been tested and approved by UL. Even if you use creosote logs, fireplaces should still be inspected by a professional each year.
  • Open flues before fireplaces are used.
  • Use sturdy screens or glass doors to keep embers inside fireplaces.
  • Install at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home and inside or near sleeping areas.
  • Keep young children away from working wood stoves and heaters to avoid contact burn injuries.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning Precautions:

Carbon monoxide, aka “the silent killer.” You can’t see it, smell it, or taste it. It claims the lives of nearly 300 people in their homes each year according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commision (CPSC). It’s a deadly gas produced by fuel-burning heat equipment, like furnaces, wood stoves, fireplaces, and kerosene heaters

  • Install at least one CO alarm near sleeping areas.
  • Have a trained professional inspect, clean and tune-up your home’s central heating system and repair leaks or other problems. Fireplaces and woodstoves should also be inspected each year and cleaned or repaired as needed.
  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted and serviced.
  • Never use an oven or range to heat your home.
  • Never use a gas or charcoal grill inside your home or in a closed garage.
  • Portable electric generators must be used outside only. Never use them indoors, in a garage or in any confined area that can allow CO to collect. Follow usage directions closely.

Be “Ready-to-Go” or “Ready-to-Stay” if the power goes out:

  • Stock up on batteries, flashlights, portable radios, canned foods, manual can openers, bottled water and blankets.
  • Use flashlights instead of candles to avoid a possible fire hazard
  • If the temperature outside is below freezing and your home has no heat, run water at a trickle to help prevent pipes from freezing and bursting,
  • Store perishable food outside in the snow or in an unheated outside building if the power goes out.

Additional resources: FEMA, NFPA, or call your local fire department for more information.

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