Heater & Fireplace SafetyCozy, Warm, and . . . Safe!

While heating appliances and fireplaces make life comfortable during winter, they're also a major cause of home fires and other problems. Escondido Fire Department Fire Prevention Officers hope you'll keep the following concerns in mind:

Portable heaters should be Underwriters Laboratory (UL) listed and shut off automatically if tipped over. They should be kept in good condition with no frayed wires or accumulations of dust. Small children should never be left unattended in the same room with a portable heater, even for a minute. Keep all combustible items, including newspapers, bed linens, furniture, and draperies at least three feet away. Any heating appliance should be plugged directly into a wall outlet—not into an extension cord.

Stationary home furnaces should be kept free of dust and the filters should be changed regularly. Keep all combustible items at least three feet away. Consult your owner's manual, gas, or electric company if you have any concerns about the operation of your furnace. Repairs or modifications should be made only by qualified service technicians.

While it may be tempting to use a barbecue or hibachi stove for indoor heating purposes, the fact is that charcoal gives off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide when it burns. Kerosene heaters should not to be used in the home, either, because they remove oxygen from the air. In fact, it's illegal to use them in a residence in the State of California for that reason.

Every fireplace should have a sturdy screen across the front to prevent embers from flying or logs from rolling out. A spark arrestor across the top of a chimney will prevent sparks from igniting your roof or your neighbor's roof. Combustible items, including extra firewood, should be kept at least three feet from the fireplace opening. If you use manmade logs in your fireplace, follow package directions carefully; don't attempt to break a log up. Never use gasoline, kerosene, or any other type of flammable liquid to start a fireplace fire.

The fireplace is no place to burn gift wrappings, trash, or other debris. Burning these items can create and release toxic fumes or cause excessive heat that can damage the fireplace. When clearing ashes from the fireplace, be sure to put them into a metal container with a lid—never into a cardboard box or paper bag. Otherwise, the embers are capable of smoldering for days with disastrous results.

The chimney should be cleaned by a qualified professional at least once a year—more if it's used extensively. Chimney sweeps can be found in the yellow pages.

Anytime we add any type of heat to our homes, the risk of uncontrolled fire increases. The Escondido Fire Department hopes you'll keep that in mind and wishes everyone a warm but safe winter.

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