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Tips for staying warm and safe in the winter months

By Rebecca Barnhart-Allan

When the wind is blowing and the temperatures drop outside, there is nothing nicer than being inside in a cozy warm house, but along with that warmth can come many safety issues. Heating equipment is one of the leading causes of house fires and winter deaths in the U.S. In 2010, according to the NFPA, there were an estimated 57,100 structure fires with about 1530 civilian injuries and about 490 deaths, with financial losses of approximately $1.1 billion in direct property damages. Space heaters accounted for approximately one third of all home heating fires and about eighty percent of the deaths. Locally, the use of wood-fired heating has risen dramatically as people try to reduce their winter heating costs, but could increase their risks for fire related incidents.
The NFPA and USFA have recommended a number of safety tips to keep you and yours safe this winter. With space heaters, provide plenty of unrestricted space around them, keeping anything that can burn at least three feet from the heater. A leading factor contributing to ignition of a home heating device, approximately 51% of home heating fires, is due to things such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses and/or bedding being too close to the device.
When using a wood fired stove or fireplace, having the flue or chimney cleaned of creosote is of utmost importance as approximately 26% percent of home house fires are due to this lapse in maintenance.
Another fire hazard to consider dwells in our kitchens. Never use your oven or stove to heat your home, as they are not designed for this use and can easily ignite their surroundings when left to run unattended and open. Gas stoves which are not properly vented when left running may also emit deadly carbon monoxide. Never leave food cooking on the stove unattended and turn the stove off if you need to leave the room.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.