Many Missourians turned on their heaters for the first time last week as temperatures in some parts of the state dropped into the lower 20s, prompting officials to remind Missourians about home heating safety.
State Fire Marshall Randy Cole says there are many Missourians who utilize what he would call “alternative” heating sources including space heaters. The National Fire Protection Association says nationally, space heaters account for about one-third of home heating fires and 80-percent of home heating fire deaths, annually.
Cole urges Missourians to use caution. “We want to make sure that they’re following the manufacturer’s recommendations on those space heaters, making sure they have no combustibles within three feet of space heaters, to not leave them unattended, make sure that you’re not using an extension cord in connection with a space heater … we don’t want lower-gauge wired extension cords to be supplying a space heater because that will create an overheat situation and cause a fire.”
Many Missourians burn wood either in a fireplace or a wood burning stove. Cole says chimneys need to be maintained, and how often depends on what is being burned. “Obviously we don’t want you to burn unseasoned firewood. If you burn green wood it adds to the buildup of the creosote.” He recommends having all types of heating systems checked annually, and check flues every month for a buildup of creosote.”
Cole doesn’t recommend one type of heating system over another. He just encourages Missourians to make sure whatever they use is made by a reputable company. “Make sure that they appliances are nationally tested by a laboratory, for example your Underwriters Laboratory. Don’t use any appliances that don’t bear a nationally recognized laboratory testing mark.”
He says in the fatality cases his office is called to investigate it is often learned that smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in the structure were inoperable. He urges Missourians to check those monthly, and take other precautions.
“We want to talk about making sure that you have an escape plan and a meeting place outside. If a situation arises we want to make sure that everybody’s accounted for and not have a reason to reenter a home that is experiencing a fire.”
Find more home heating and fire safety tips at the Missouri Division of Fire Safety’s website.