Preventing Heating and Electrical Fires
As the weather gets colder, the heat comes on and supplemental heating devices emerge from the closet. When using these devices it is important to practice safe operation in order to prevent fires or other electrical accidents from occurring. Improper use and negligence can easily lead to fires, especially as the weather is transitioning and supplemental heating devices may be in poor condition after several months of no use. As the seasons transition, it is important to inspect heating devices and internal home heating systems for proper functioning. The greater fire risks, of course, are supplemental heating devices, fireplaces and wood burning stoves. These, above all, should be inspected and maintained to prevent potential problems. Here are some tips for different heat sources.
- Have your chimney inspected and cleaned once a year by a professional. Dirty chimneys are responsible for a lot of preventable fires each year. Have a removable cap installed on top of the chimney to keep animals and debris out of the chimney
- Install a spark arrestor and always use a fireplace gate when operating the fireplace. Keep combustible items away from the fireplace by ensuring good clearance between the fireplace and surrounding items.
- When using the fireplace, never burn garbage, charcoal, or plastic and never use a liquid accelerant to start or maintain the fire. After every fire, make sure the flames and embers are completely extinguished. You should also remove the ashes to prevent buildup in the fireplace.
- Always maintain good clearance between any combustible materials and a space heater or wood stove. You should never leave the space heater unattended, even if you are just in another room. Shut the heater off and unplug it if you leave.
- Inspect the heater before use, in particular, the cords and wires. Look for fraying, broken wires, or signs of overheating. Avoid running cords beneath carpets or rugs as this represents a significant fire hazard if something goes wrong with the device.
- Consider purchasing a heater with an automatic shutoff feature and heat element guards. Always be sure to allow the device to cool after use and store it apart from combustible items.
Electrical Fire Prevention
Home electrical fires represent some $1 billion in property losses every year. Reducing the risk of electrical fires and taking comprehensive steps to prevent them from occurring is important to personal safety and home protection during the colder months. Following the above recommendations is a good idea, but you should also take broader precautions. Replace electrical tools and appliances that short, shock, smoke, spark, or otherwise appear unsafe. The damages can cause fires or personal injury. Also, avoid overloading outlets and keep electronic devices away from water. This may seem obvious, but these are significant causes of electrical fires around the house.