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Farmington Hills Fire Shares Home Heating Equipment Safety Tips

Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires during the winter.

The Farmington Hills Fire Department would like to make all residents aware that heating equipment is a leading cause of many home fires during the winter months.

Home furnaces should be checked annually by a qualified contractor to ensure that they are operating safely and efficiently. Alternative equipment such as fireplaces, fixed space heaters, water heaters, and portable space heaters, if used improperly or not maintained, may all contribute to the cause of a home fire. Throughout the U.S., heating equipment is second only to cooking equipment as the leading cause of home fires.

When portable space heaters and water heaters are involved in a fire, many times it is due to combustibles being too close to the appliance. Always ensure that there is a safe distance between combustibles and the heating element of an electric appliance or the combustion chamber of any fuel-fired appliance.

Instead of conventional equipment, some people use a fireplace or wood stove to heat their home, either in whole or in part. This increases the possibility of a fire and fire-related injuries and fatalities. An unintended fire in a chimney from a fireplace or wood burning stove is usually caused by a build up of creosote (a tar-like substance).

Creosote is the cause of over 14,000 home heating fires annually, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). If you have a natural burning fireplace, have your chimney cleaned regularly by a reputable and qualified contractor.

Here are a few safety tips:

  • All equipment should be used in the manner it is designed for.

  • Equipment that is tested and approved for consumer use will bear the label of a reputable testing agency.

  • Generally speaking, you should keep a clear distance of at least three feet around any heating source.

  • Never use your kitchen stove or oven as a heating method.

  • Never leave space heaters or fireplaces unattended while in use.

  • When using a space heater, be sure it’s on a flat, firm surface (not on carpet or near combustible materials) and keep kids and pets away while it’s in use. An approved space heater will shut off automatically if it overheats or tips over.

  • Make sure all embers in a fireplace are extinguished before you leave home or go to sleep.

  • Disposing of ashes with the household trash or in the garage is not recommended. Store burned ashes in a non-combustible container with a lid outside of the home.

  • Use only seasoned hardwood when burning wood in a natural fireplace. Green or recently cut wood will not burn cleanly and will create a creosote build up in your chimney. Do not burn trash, construction materials (2 x 4’s, plywood, etc.) or any other items not intended to be used in a fireplace.

  • Have some protection in front of your fireplace. A glass door or screen will help stop embers from jumping out of the fireplace.

  • Always have an escape plan for your family and practice it so that everyone knows what to do and where to meet in the event of a fire.

  • Be sure there are working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

Lieutenant Larry M. Gauthier is a fire and safety educator with the Farmington Hills (MI) Fire Department. Contact him at 248-871-2820 or LGauthier@fhgov.com. 

Sources: National Fire Protection Association and American Red Cross 

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