We New Englanders are well aware of how nice it is to come in from a frigid, snowy day to the warmth of a roaring fire. And on nights when the mercury edges down into the teens and lower, a nice fire in the fireplace is almost a requirement for a comfortable evening in front of the TV. But what we quickly take for granted can quickly turn against us, robbing us of our home, our possessions – even our lives.
The recent fire in Stamford that killed three young children and their grandparents is a stark reminder that when using a fireplace for home heating, care must be taken to prevent turning a relaxing evening into a tragedy. To this end, here are some tips and precautions to heed when using your fireplace, furnace, candles and other fire sources this winter:
- Dispose of embers appropriately. NEVER put embers in a paper or plastic bag; instead, first douse the embers in water and store in a covered metal container away from other combustible materials. (Improper ember disposal is believed to be the cause of the tragic Stamford fire.)
- Have your furnace inspected and cleaned at least once a year. Replace filters as needed.
- Fireplaces may need to be cleaned and inspected more than once a year. Chimneys should be inspected for creosote build-up and damage to the mortar that may call wall fires.
- When using scented candles, ensure they are never left unattended and are placed on a non-flammable surface.
- Keep Candles out of the reach of small children and pets that may knock them over.
- Do not leave food cooking on the stove unattended. If food does catch on fire, turn off the stove and cover the pan. Do NOT use water to try to put the fire out, especially if cooking oil is involved. Water can spread the fire and cause serious injury.
- Have at least one smoke detector on each floor, and one in every bedroom, but NOT in the kitchen or bathroom.
- Remember to test the batteries in smoke detectors periodically, and if you remove them don’t forget to replace them.
- Carbon monoxide detectors are also recommended for every home, especially near the furnace. Carbon monoxide is present where there is incomplete combustion or poor venting and can be lethal if not detected in time.
- Have a home fire escape plan that details primary and secondary exits and designate a meeting place for family members outside the home.
- Immediately leave the house and call for help.
- Take the safest route out of the house, but if you have to pass through smoke, stay low to the floor and cover your nose and mouth with a moist towel if possible, or an article of clothing.
- If a door feels hot, DO NOT OPEN IT. Fire could be on the other side of that door and you could walk right into it. Place a towel or blanket under the door to prevent smoke inhalation and proceed to a secondary exit.
- Once you’re out, stay out, do not try to go back in.
- Fireplace Embers Caused Deadly Connecticut Fire (abcnews.go.com)