Keep safe and warm in the cold: SAFD talks home heating safety

SAN ANTONIO – When the cold comes, so can the heat.

San Antonio Fire Department Spokesman Joe Arrington says the fire danger “absolutely” increases in cold weather. Nationwide, he says, firefighters see an increase in fires tied to home heating safety.

“The thing we always say — and I say it all the time: ‘Predictable is preventable,’” Arrington said.

KSAT talked with him about some of those problems you can predict and, hopefully, prevent.

SPACE HEATERS

Arrington said space heaters are the “biggest culprits” of cold weather fire problems. He recommends using one with fall protection, which will automatically turn the heater off if it tips over.

Other tips include:

  • Plug the heater’s cord directly into the wall, not a surge protector.
  • Keep the heater at least 3 feet away from anything flammable (blankets, curtains, bedding, etc.).
  • Don’t put it under your desk.
  • When you leave the room, turn the heater off and unplug it.
  • Do not leave the heater on or plugged in while you’re sleeping.

HEATING WITH OVENS OR STOVES

Heating your home with an oven or stove is something you should “never” do, though Arrington said they often see this with older San Antonians.

Any oven — gas or electric —presents a fire hazard. Gas ovens and burners also present a danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The SAFD spokesman says they’ve also seen people try to use a charcoal grill inside, which brings the same dangers.

“If you don’t have a space heater or whatever, your central heat’s not working that great — use blankets. Pile those blankets on. If you need to, go to a neighbor’s house. Go to a family member’s house. Go to one of the, you know, designated places where you can stay warm,” Arrington said.

“The key thing is it’s going to be cold. It’s going to be miserable. But we just got to stay warm and stay safe.”

FIREPLACES & CHIMNEYS

Arrington said you should ensure your chimney is clean before starting a fire. He recommends a professional chimney cleaning and inspection for wood-burning fireplaces to deal with the creosote buildup.

Whether your fireplace burns wood or natural gas, you’ll need to ensure your flue is open and you don’t have smoke backing up into your home.

If you’re lighting a wood fire, stick to using just wood and paper to get it started. Don’t use gasoline or a charcoal starter inside your home.

Once the fire is going, ensure it’s behind a screen so embers don’t spark off a fire in the room.

HOME GENERATORS

Hopefully, there will be no problems with your home’s electricity. But if you find yourself having to use a generator, make sure it’s well clear of your house — six feet or so.

It should also be out in the open. Never put it inside your garage or near your HVAC system, where the heater could suck the exhaust fumes back into your house.

MORE TIPS

SAFD has more information, based on each season, on its website: firesafesa.com.


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