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Winter Fire Safety
Winter increases the potential for fires in our homes. Furnaces, woodstoves, fireplaces and other heating devices are operating to provide heat, more people are staying indoors and there is an increased electrical demand for lighting and the use of appliances. A simple checklist can increase your awareness of how fires occur and help you take simple precautions to prevent most fires and fire-related injuries.
Heating Fires account fo 36% of residential fires in rural areas each year.  Often, these fires are due to creosote buildup in chimneys and stovepipes.
  • Is your woodstove installed properly and in good condition?
  • Do you have 36” clearance around the hearth of debris, decorations and from other combustible materials/surfaces?
  • Have proper floor support and protection?
  • Is your chimney inspected and cleaned annually by a competent and qualified specialist?
  • Do you have a metal mesh screen covering the fireplace opening to keep embers from getting out of the fireplace area?
  • Do you leave glass doors open while buring a fire?  Leaving the doors open ensures that the fire receives enough air to ensure complete combustion and keeps creosote from buidling up in the chimney/stovepipe.
  • Do close glass doors when the fire is out to keep air from the chimney opening from getting into the room?  Most glass doors have a metal mesh screen which should be closed when the glass doors are open.
  • Do you keep air inlets on wood stoves open and never restrict air supply to fireplaces?  Otherwise, you may cause creosote buildup that could lead to a chimney fire.

Safety Tips.......

  • Do not use flammable liquids to start or accelerate any fire.
  • Burn your stove hot to reduce creosote buildup in the chimney.
  • NEVER burn charcoal in your stove or fireplace and limit the use of paper to build a fire.
  • NEVER close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace and be sure the fire is out before leaving the house or going to sleep.


  • Do you always use K1 kerosene and burn according to the manufacturer’s directions?
  • Is the heater in a well-ventilated room?
  • Are all combustible materials at least 36” away from the heater?
  • Is the heater placed where it will not be knocked over or block an escape route? 

Safety Tips.......

  • Use only approved heaters with an emergency shut off if the unit is tipped over.
  • NEVER fill a heater while it is hot and NEVER refuel a heater inside your home.
  • Keep fuel stored in approved metal cans outside the home.
  • Don’t move a burning heater and know how to use the manual shut off in case of a flare –up.
  • Make sure the home is ventilated so carbon monoxide doesn’t build up inside.


  • Are all controls and emergency shutoffs in proper working condition?
  • Has the furnace been inspected/serviced by a professional?
  • Are flue pipes well supported, free of holes, rust, and cracks? 

Safety Tips.......

  • Make sure furnaces and chimneys are in good repair.
  • Keep trash and other combustibles away from heating systems.


  • If there is a fire hydrant near your home you can assist the fire department by keeping the hydrant clear of snow and ice so in the event it is needed, it can be located.
  • Be sure every level of your home has a working smoke alarm, and be sure to check and clean it every month.
  • Carbon Monoxide detectors should be installed in every home to warn of deadly build-ups.
  • Never use a range or oven as a supplementary heating device. This is a safety hazard and can produce potentially deadly fumes.
  • NEVER try to thaw frozen water pipes with a blowtorch or other open flame. The pipe could conduct the heat and ignite a fire inside a wall. Use hot water or a UL labeled device such as a hair dryer for thawing.
  • And finally...know how to contact the fire department for any emergency.