Heating is the second leading cause of home fires. Reporter Katie Miller spoke to a firefighter to learn more about how you can prevent winter fires.
The Missoula Rural Fire District says they respond to lots of heater related fires in the fall. Mof those are caused by fireplaces and chimneys that weren't cleaned properly prior to use.
They recommend inspecting fireplaces and stoves, and cleaning chimneys before the first use. People should also inspect furnaces, boilers, and filters.
MRFD says to keep flammable items at least three feet away from a heat source. And use only clean, dry wood to start a fire, and don't leave space heaters on unattended.
Firefighter Libby Hooper says uncleaned, unused chimneys can also house wildlife.
"What we want people to know going into winter is that we want to make sure that they're safe when they're heating their homes," Hooper said.
"Whether they use a wood stove, or a pellet stove, or a furnace or anything else. We want to make sure that they're set up and ready for use, and that it's a safe environment for them to be in."
Hooper also reminds people to keep children and pets away from candles, especially during a power outage.
Here are some suggestions from MRFD to keep your home warm and safe:
- Have your fireplaces, wood stoves and pellet stoves inspected before you begin using them each year. Have the chimney cleaned to remove creosote, which can ignite and start a chimney fire.
- Keep anything that can burn 3-feet away from space heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves, pellet stoves and radiators.
- The openings around fireplaces and wood stoves can get hot enough to burn skin, so keep children and pets far away from them. When you’re finished with your fire, make sure it is out before you leave home or fall asleep. When you clean up, place the ashes inside a metal can with a lid. Store the can outside, away from the home, and other combustible items until the ashes are completely cold.
- Use a tempered glass or metal screen over the fireplace opening to keep sparks inside. Burn only clean dry wood in fireplaces and wood or wood pellets in wood stoves.
- Never use gasoline to start a fire. There is no safe way to start a fire with gasoline.
- Only use portable space heaters that have been listed by a testing laboratory such as UL (look for the laboratory’s label). These heaters should have an automatic shut-off switch so that if they are tipped over, they will turn off on their own. Plug portable electric heaters directly into the wall outlet; don’t use extension cords or power strips.
- Turn space heaters off when you leave the room or before falling asleep. Never leave space heaters on unattended.
- Make sure any heating appliances such as furnaces or boilers are inspected and operating properly. If heating appliances are equipped with filters, check with the manufacture’s recommendations on how often filters should be changed or cleaned and then be sure to change them as needed.
- Have carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home and make sure they are working.
- Always have working smoke detectors in your home. Smoke detectors should be on every level of the home, inside every bedroom and outside every sleeping area.