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Home Heating Caution Urged

With the recent cold snap, Albemarle County would like to remind its residents to take certain safety precautions when dealing with home heating devices.  Over one-third of home fire deaths in the United States occur during the winter.  The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that heating equipment fires are the second leading causes of fire deaths in American homes and the biggest fire culprit during December and January. 

Most of these fires are due to human error, as they are most commonly caused by the following items:

  • Lack of consistent cleaning of chimneys in fireplaces and woodstoves
  • Placing flammable items too close to space heaters and portable heaters
  • Flaws in design, installation, or use of equipment
  • Fueling errors involving liquid or gas-fueled heaters
  • Leaving portable heaters or space heaters unattended

County officials recommend specific fire prevention tips to keep in mind during the winter months:

  • Portable and Other Space Heaters – Portable and space heaters should be kept at least 36 inches away from anything that can burn, including furniture, clothing, people and pets.  Space heaters should never be left operating when you leave the room or go to sleep.  Children and pets should be supervised at all times when the heaters are in use.  A high fire hazard is associated with drying clothing or placing combustibles above the heaters. 
  • Portable Kerosene Heaters – Only use the fuel specifically recommended by the manufacturer of the liquid-fueled space heater.  Using a substitute fuel can cause the equipment to burn hotter than it was designed to handle and a serious fire could ensue.  Always keep the fuel clearly labeled and stored away from the heater.  The heater should be turned off and cooled completely before refueling. 
  • Fireplaces – Chimneys should be inspected by a professional prior to the start of every heating season and cleaned if necessary.  Always use a sturdy fireplace screen for protection and remember to burn only wood.  Paper and pine boughs can float out of your chimney and set your roof on fire.  Do not use flammable liquids in your fireplace.  Also, do not use your fireplace if you have placed decorative materials, such as Christmas stockings, in it. 
  • Wood Stoves – Follow the same rules for wood stoves as you would for space heaters.  Burn only wood and place the wood stove on an approved store board to protect the floor from heat.  Check with local fire and code officials before installing your stove.

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