Fire officials offer tips for safely heating homes

Fireplaces, space heaters come with risks if not used properly

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With the colder weather sweeping in, many people in Northeast Florida will be using something they rarely need much of: heat.

But firefighters warn that using space heaters and fireplaces comes with risk, if they're not used properly.

According to information from the Electrical Safety Foundation International, more home fires occur during the winter months than during any other part of the year, and heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the United States.

Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Fire Union, said that firefighters have seen a huge uptick in fires recently.

“It's a good time to remember the issues that do occur when it gets cold,” Wyse said. “A fire we had in Miramar was actually due to a fireplace, so you want to have your fireplace inspected at least annually to make sure there's no cracks in the mortar and that it's been vented properly.”

More than 65,000 home fires are attributed to heating equipment each year, and hundreds of people die and thousands get injured because of this, according to the ESFI.

“Christmas time, people like to burn candles all the time,” Wyse said. “But if you do have that accident, your smoke detector's your first line of defense to alert you, especially when you're sleeping, if there is a fire in your home. If you hear a smoke detector, the first thing you want to do is evacuate you and your family, make sure you have an area you know to meet so that everybody's out of the home. At the same time, call 911. We'll be able take care of it.”

Firefighters also offered these important safety tips:

  • Space heaters need to be 3 feet away from anything flammable
  • Use the screen on a fireplace
  • Check smoke detectors and change the batteries
  • Make a fire escape plan in case there is a fire
  • Have heaters checked annually by a professional

Wyse said the funny smell that comes when cranking on the heat should dissipate after a little while.

“But if that smell continues for a good while, call 911 and make sure the professionals come out take a look at it,” Wyse said.

Another piece of advice from Wyse is that if a space heater burns liquid fuel, such as kerosene, it should be allowed to cool down before it's refueled, and the fuel should never be poured inside a home.

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