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Authorities eye winter safety

This weekend’s cold snap has prompted more than just county residents to prepare for the fall and winter seasons.

Saturday, October 07, 2000

This weekend’s cold snap has prompted more than just county residents to prepare for the fall and winter seasons.

Fire officials are cautioning residents to practice safe heating methods.

"We have already had one weather-related fire and we look for that number to increase, unfortunately," Ironton fire chief Tom Runyon said. "Decoration source and heating source fires are the cause of the majority of structure fires during the fall and winter months."

Runyon said individuals using furnaces to heat should have them inspected prior to winter usage.

"They should make sure they are fire safe and have no carbon monoxide (CO) emissions," he said. "With any type of heating system, keep a minimum three feet clear around the unit to prevent any mishap that would cause fire spread."

And, with any type of auxiliary heating source, small animals and children should not be left unattended, he added.

"Auxiliary heating sources, such as the small electric heaters, are not made to use with (extension) cords," Runyon said. "Electric heaters also are not designed to heat an entire house or as permanent heating sources."

State Fire Marshal Robert R. Reilage said more than 1,300 statewide residential fires last year were caused by home heating appliances and nearly 900 of those fires were caused by wood stoves and portable heaters.

"Our greatest concern with alternative heating is that devices such as wood stoves and portable heaters require greater attention to safety precautions than central heating systems," Reilage said.

Both Reilage and Runyon said residents should begin preparing for winter now so that they can thoroughly read portable heater instructions and avoid having to wait for necessary repairs, servicing and inspection.

Residents using wood stoves should also exercise caution, Runyon added.

"Another big problem we often see is people who use a woodburner don’t have a qualified person check for soot build up or cracks in liners that will cause fire to spread to their house," he said. "And people shouldn’t use green wood because it doesn’t take long for creosote to build up and catch fire."

Fall decorations also raise concern, Runyon said.

"People should keep decorations out of areas that would hamper a walkway," he said. "Candles are especially popular in the holiday season and should always be accompanied and never be unattended."

The biggest factor in safely escaping a fire is early detection and quick evacuation, he added.

"Make sure smoke detectors have fresh batteries and CO monitors are ready to go," he said. "Residents of Ironton that do not have a working smoke detector should call the fire station and we will install one for them free of charge. And, most importantly, people should make sure they have an escape plan in the event of a fire."