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Fire Marshall: Use Heating Equipment Properly to Prevent Fires

by on January 23, 2014 6:40 AM

With below freezing temperatures expected to hover until February, emergency responders urge that you to take precautions when using various home heating systems.

Brian Bittner of the Centre Region Fire Marshals' office through Alpha Fire Company, says at this time of year there are a number of steps residents should take to keep their homes safe.

First, he recommends space heaters be used only as the manufacturer recommends. That means placing the heater in an open space, away from walls, furniture and other items that could potentially catch fire. Additionally, Bittner says it's important to check older heaters for any damage, such as fraying in the cord or sparking.

Each winter, Bittner sees one or two house fires related to space heaters. On a different front, Bittner says he's seen a lot of dehumidifier-related fires. He says anyone using a dehumidifier should follow the same rules that apply to space heaters.

Additionally, Bittner says anyone who burns wood in their home, either in a wood stove or a fireplace, needs to have their chimney properly cleaned and maintained. He also stresses the importance of only burning dry, clean wood.

In fact, on Wednesday, Bittner responded to a house in Boalsburg for a flue fire.

"Flue fires are very common," Bittner says. "It has been known to definitely burn houses down. You have to keep up with your flue. If you don't get it taken care of or cleaned it will cause a fire."

Bittner suggests residents install carbon monoxide detectors to identify any unseen dangers. He also says residents need to ensure fossil fuel heating systems are operating properly.

Between 2008 and 2010, portable heaters were involved in roughly 1,200 fires each year in the United States, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The commission offers the following safety tips when using space heaters to hear your home.

- Never operate a heater you suspect is damaged. Before use, inspect the heater cord and plug for damage.

- Follow all instructions for operation and maintenance.

- Never leave the heater operating while unattended or while sleeping.

- Keep combustible materials such as beds, sofas, curtains, papers and clothes at least three-feet from the heater.

- Be sure the heater plug fits tightly into the wall outlet. If not, do not use the outlet to power the heater.

- During use, check frequently to determine if the heater plug or cord, wall outlet, or faceplate is hot. If any part is hot, unplug the heater and have a qualified electrician replace necessary parts.

- Never power a heater with an extension cord or power strip.

- Place the heater in a stable position where it will not be knocked over.

- When purchasing a heater, ask the salesperson if the heater has been safety-certified. A certified heater will have a safety certification mark.

- Never run the heater's cord under rugs or carpeting. This can damage the cord, causing it and nearby objects to burn.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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