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Agencies issue winter fire, carbon monoxide warning

January 27, 2011

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Washington – Home fires and carbon monoxide poisonings tend to spike during winter months, which is why the U.S. Fire Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission are cautioning homeowners to stay safe this season.

According to USFA, between 2005 and 2007, an average of 33,000 fires were attributed to home heating, resulting in 180 deaths. Additionally, deaths from CO increase in winter because many fuel-burning appliances such as fireplaces and furnaces emit the gas.

To keep your home safe from these dangers, in addition to having functioning smoke and CO alarms in the home, USFA and CPSC recommend:

  • Place space heaters on a floor that is flat and level. Do not place them on rugs or carpet. The heater should be out of the way of foot traffic and 3 feet from flammable materials, including bedding, drapes and furniture.
  • Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or place a space heater near any sleeping person. Turn off heaters when you leave the area.
  • Never use gasoline in a kerosene space heater.
  • Have your fireplace and chimney inspected for leakage and blockage from creosote or debris every year.
  • Open the fireplace damper before lighting a fire; keep it open until ashes are cooled.
  • Store ashes in a fireproof container, covered with a lid. Keep the container outdoors and away from combustibles.
  • Schedule a yearly inspection of all fuel-burning heating systems, including furnaces, water heaters, wood stoves, chimney, flues and vents.
  • Never operate portable gasoline-powered generators in enclosed spaces, and keep them as far away from your home and your neighbors’ homes as possible. Also, keep them clear of open windows, doors and vents.
  • When purchasing a space heater, verify it has been safety certified. Certified heaters will have a safety certification mark.
  • Do not use portable propane space heaters indoors or in any confined space unless specifically designed for indoor use. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

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