Today is the last day of this year’s national Fire Prevention Week.
Sadly, the statistics show that if you have a reported fire in your home nowadays, you are more likely to die than you were in 1980! We have all got to do what we can to change that trend, starting with our own homes.
Last week we gave some tips from the National Fire Protection Agency on how to prevent home fires dealing with heating appliances. This week we want to spring from there, giving some more detail on fire safety as well as including some basic maintenance tips for you depending on what kind of heating device you use.
WOOD STOVES AND FIREPLACES
While most fireplaces aren’t equipped to truly heat a home, we’re including them because they have important maintenance needs. Also, sometimes they are used as alternative heat sources when the power goes out.
This is the time to examine your chimney. If you haven’t taken a peek at it yet (or hired someone else to) consider checking that off of your To Do list pronto.
For your fireplace, at the very least, stick your head inside to look up and make sure you can see sky. A bird’s nest or debris can make for a very smoky first fire of fall.
Chimney fires are very common. And by having your chimney cleaned regularly (every year or two depending on use) you can rest easy that yours won’t likely catch fire.
Chimney fires occur because creosote – a byproduct of combustion – builds up and cakes onto the side walls of the chimney. This material is still highly combustible and if it has an ignition source, the creosote can burn, creating a chimney fire.
Sometimes, repeated little fires in the chimney over time can go unnoticed, but can slowly weaken the integrity of the mortar and even the nearby walls. Then one day, it just takes a little heat in the chimney to cause a fire.
In Hoquiam, the fire department wants to encourage people to take preventative measures by cleaning their chimneys. They offer an assortment of chimney brushes available to Hoquiam residents for loan at no charge.
Something that can prevent chimney fires is to remember to burn dry wood. Wet wood contributes to creosote buildup.
Another form of prevention is to keep the wood for your wood-burning stove at least 20 to 25 feet away from your home. That protects you from adding fuel to an unplanned fire and from inviting bugs to your house.
MIDWALL CHIMNEYS DANGEROUS
Over the years, we’ve seen or heard about many fires in our area caused by “mid-wall chimneys.”
If you own a newer home, you can skip to the next section. But for those of you who own or rent a home that was built many years ago, you may want to check that you don’t have a mid-wall chimney.
These chimneys, which are still frequently in use in some of the older housing stock in our area, are constructed within the interior of the home itself. This type of chimney is extended through the second story or attic, built up against the surrounding wooden materials instead of having an air space, as is now required. As you can imagine, it can be a recipe for disaster.
If you have one of these chimneys, see if there is at least a 1-inch air space between the chimney and any combustible materials around it.
These old chimneys might have been safe and appropriate when used as intended – for gas- or oil-type stoves. However, somewhere along the way, homeowners converted the oil stove to a wood-burning stove, which burn much hotter and therefore likely require upgrades to the existing chimney.
CHECK BASEBOARD, CADET HEATERS
Many people on the Twin Harbors have electric baseboard heaters or wall register (cadet) heaters. These need some attention at the beginning of the heating season.
When we aren’t using the heaters during the summer months, we can become lax in keeping flammable items too near them.
So, clean your wall register (cadet) or baseboard-type heaters of dust and foreign objects. Then maintain three feet of clearance from the heat source.
Even if you have started them up for the season, if you haven’t dusted them off, take a warm day to turn them off and give them a thorough inspection and dusting.
FILL PROPANE TANK FOR WINTER
If you use propane in your home for cooking and/or heating, now is a good time to make sure you’ve got plenty in the tank before heading into our chilly season.
It’s also a great time to service and inspect your LP insert or furnace appliance. Just like any other heating appliances, maintain distance between it and any type of combustibles including furniture, curtains, papers and books.
OIL FURNACE NEEDS A PEAK
While not often installed in newer homes, plenty of homes on the Twin Harbors still have oil furnaces. If that applies to you, it’s important to have your furnace serviced, cleaned and inspected before the winter begins. Not only will the maintenance make your furnace more efficient – saving you money – it will also help prevent the hassle of having it break down when you least expect it. Additionally, having your furnace serviced cleaned and inspected, can help prevent fire.
REPLACE BATTERIES IN ALARMS
Do you have a smoke alarm in every bedroom as well as the kitchen and other rooms? Getting out quickly is the best way to survive a fire, and an alarm gives you extra time to do that.
Nov. 4, the day daylight savings time ends this year, has become the traditional reminder day to check your smoke alarms and change your batteries. But if you are installing new smoke alarms in your home anyway, do it now. If not, mark your calendar and get to it on Nov. 4.
One little reminder: Sometimes an alarm, usually one close to the kitchen, goes off when someone burns toast and the quick way to silence it is to take out the battery. The problem with this, firefighters say, is that folks forget to put the battery back in. They’ve attended many a fire with smoke alarms present, but lacking their battery. Don’t let that be your house.
INSTALL CARBON MONOXIDE ALARM
While you’re thinking about safety, consider installing a carbon monoxide alarm in your home.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that can cause sickness or even death. It is a natural result of burning fossil fuels – oil, wood, gas – and can become a hazard if the appliances aren’t used as intended or are used without proper ventilation. All rental properties are required to have a CO detector on each floor preferably near the bedrooms.