Fire Marshal: Prevent winter house fires

Heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fires during the winter months. According to the National Fire Protection Association, half of all home heating fires occur in December, January and February. According to Sweetwater Fire Marshal Richard Spradlin, there are several ways to prevent winter house fires. "Keep anything that can burn at least three feet from heating equipment such as a furnace, woodstove or portable heater."Spradlin says that space heaters are a major cause of house fires during the winter. "Portable space heaters should be turned off every time you leave the room and before going to bed. Also do not plug too many items into extension cords, as some are not made to withstand too many outlets and can short out and cause a fire."Spradlin says that safety with fireplaces can also prevent house fires. Having heating equipment and chimneys inspected and cleaned every year can help to prevent a house fire. Cleaning filters in a heater can also prevent a fire from the buildup of lint. "Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room."Spradlin added that one should allow a fireplace or wood stove ashes to cool before disposing them in a metal container. He also said that families should install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Smoke alarms should be tested monthly.Another tip given by the Fire Marshal was about wearing loose clothing around a fire. In the winter, people tend to wear loose, long-sleeved clothing around fires such as when cooking or around a space heater. "Individuals should wear tighter clothing around heating sources as their loose clothing can easily catch fire close to the heat or close to fire from a stove."Spradlin also warned not to use an oven to heat a home and to install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.