Nashville, TN – The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office is reminding Tennesseans to keep safe and warm as colder weather becomes more common across the state. Residents are urged to use extra caution with the use of alternate heat sources.
“The arrival of colder weather means many people will begin to heat their homes with fireplaces, woodstoves, and space heaters,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak. “The drop in temperature traditionally brings a rise in fire deaths and injuries due to the use of these alternate heat sources.”Heating equipment is a major cause of home fire devastation. The Tennessee Fire Incident Reporting System reports that Tennessee fire departments responded to 2,924 home structure fires that involved heating equipment from 2010-2014.
These fires caused 42 civilian fire deaths, 54 civilian fire injuries and over $31 million in direct property damage. Heating equipment fires accounted for 8 percent of all reported home fires and 9 percent of home fire deaths.
Some simple steps can prevent most heating-related fires from happening:
- Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
- Never use your oven to heat your home.
- Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
- Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
- Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
- Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
- Burn only dry, seasoned wood in fireplaces and woodstoves. Never burn garbage or use flammable liquids to start a fire.
- Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
- If the pilot light of your gas heater goes out, allow 5 minutes or more for the gas to go away before trying to relight the pilot. Follow manufacturer’s instructions when relighting the pilot. Do not allow gas to accumulate, and light the match before you turn on the gas to the pilot to avoid risk of flashback.
Don’t forget to install smoke alarms on every level of your home and to test them monthly. Develop and practice a home fire escape plan with everyone in your home. The plan should include two ways out of every room and a designated meeting place outside where everyone can be accounted for.