Cold weather fire prevention tips

HOUSTON The Houston Fire Department offers these safety tips to help keep you safe and warm during the wintery months ahead.

  • Provide Smoke Detectors. Place a smoke detector outside every separate sleeping area of the home. Test the smoke detectors and batteries regularly.
  • Purchase a Carbon Monoxide detector. Install a Carbon Monoxide detector in the hallway near every separate sleeping area of the home if you use gas or a fireplace for your heating. Test the batteries every month as you check you smoke detector batteries.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand. See that the extinguisher is in good working order and that all family members know how to operate it.
  • Have your heating system professionally inspected and serviced every year

  • Keep them at least 3 feet away from combustibles-walls, sofas and anything else that will burn
  • Space heaters should always be placed on the floor
  • Never leave children alone in a room with a space heater and do not let children adjust the controls or move the heater
  • Open-faced heaters should have a proper screen and grates in place-never operate a defective heater

  • Electric heaters permanently installed in the wall or ceiling should have lint and dust removed regularly. Lint and dust will burn!
  • Never overload outlets or breakers
  • Don't hide cords under rugs or carpets. Placing anything on top of the cord could cause it to overheat and can cause a fire
  • Don't use an extension cord with the heater. If the cord is hot to the touch, turn off the heater and UNPLUG it!

  • If you use a gas space heater, light the match before you turn on the gas. This avoids the risk of flashback caused by accumulating gas
  • Provide adequate ventilation when using a gas space heater, opening a window slightly (one inch) to prevent carbon monoxide buildup

  • Keep your fireplace in good working condition. Have your fireplace inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney sweep. A dirty fireplace can cause chimney fires or contribute to air pollution.
  • Clear the area around the fireplace and chimney. Debris too close to the fireplace could cause a fire. Check the flue for obstructions like bird nests. Trim any overhanging branches or large trees near the chimney, to give a minimum of 10' distance from the chimney.
  • Burn smart! Good fireplace habits can decrease fuel consumption in the home while maintaining the same level of warmth. Make sure the fire gets enough air to burn properly. Close the damper when the fire is out to keep warm room air inside.
  • Always use a fireplace screen. Use a glass or metal screen in front of your fireplace to prevent sparks igniting nearby carpets or furniture.
  • Never overload the fireplace with too many logs. Don't use the fireplace as an incinerator, and never burn garbage, Christmas trees, or piles of paper. Make a fire that fits your fireplace. A fire that's too large or too hot not only wastes fuel, it can crack your chimney.
  • Place logs at the rear of the fireplace when building a fire, preferably on a grate.
  • Choose the right fuel. In general, hardwood firewood (oak, madrone, hickory, ash, etc.) burns cleaner than softwood firewood (fir, pine, cedar, etc.). Independent tests have proven that manufactured firelogs burn much cleaner than firewood.
  • Use seasoned wood. Wood with a moisture content of less than 20 percent burns much cleaner than green (high moisture content) wood. Check with your cordwood supplier to make sure that the wood you purchase is seasoned.
  • Read and follow the label instructions when using firelogs.
  • Minimize creosote buildup. A buildup of creosote is a main cause of chimney fires. Creosote is the black tarry or flaky substance formed in chimneys during the wood burning process. While firewood leaves flammable creosote and carbon deposits on chimney wells, tests show firelogs leave significantly less creosote accumulation than wood.
  • Dispose of hot ashes in covered metal containers, placed outside in a non-combustible area (i.e. free from leaves, combustible overhangs, etc.)
  • Never leave fire unattended! Be sure the fire is extinguished before you go to bed.
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