Staying safe when heating your home

Staying safe when heating your home

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Most people will wake up to temperatures in the 40′s this week and as temperatures get cooler, you might be turning on your heaters.

Portable heaters are affordable, available in all shapes and sizes, and ready to keep your home warm in an instant, but local fire officials are warning residents about the issues that can arise when using alternative methods to keep your home warm.

Firefighters say safety must be your top priority as multiple reports cite heating as the second leading cause of house fires.

“When the weather changes, we do get quite a few more calls and that comes from people kicking on their heaters for the first time for the year, or they plug in a space heater to a power cord and it starts smoking,” said Chief Joseph Lewis with the Iowa Fire Department.

According to Sulphur Fire Prevention Officer, Richard Wingard, some people fail to make sure space heaters are unplugged and fires are out.

“We see a large number of fires caused by multi-plugs and they’re overloaded. I would recommend getting rid of that,” said Wingard.

The National Fire Protection Association reports, the majority of the deaths between 2009 and 2013, 84 percent, involved a stationary or portable space heater.

The days of cold temperatures can sometimes leave people pretty desperate. One method Officer Wingard has seen is people heating their home with their oven.

“We’ve had a structure fire recently because of that; someone left the broiler on and it ran all night and caught his house on fire," Wingard said.

Local fire departments stress the urgency of making sure your home is equipped with a working smoke detector year-round, but especially during the colder months.

Iowa and Sulphur Fire Departments offer them, free of charge.

Here are a few safety tips you and your family can practice as the temperatures continue to drop:

Fireplaces: Fireplaces that go unused for most of the year get lots of use around the holidays and during winter as they provide a source of heat and a cozy atmosphere. Yet, they also provide a great source of danger if you don’t know what preventive steps to take to keep your home and family safe.

Extension cords: Residents are encouraged to read the label on extension cord or make sure their electric heater is set up safely. It is simple actions like these that prevent home fires during the winter months.

During a typical year, home electrical problems account for 67,800 fires, 485 deaths, and $868 million in property losses across the country, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

Electrical appliances: Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects, but many more are caused by the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords. Fire deaths are highest in winter months, which call for more indoor activities and increase in lighting, heating, and appliance use, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

Carbon monoxide poisoning: The heating season also increases the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a clear, odorless and potentially fatal gas produced by home heating systems, hot water heaters, faulty chimneys, kerosene or fuel oil room heaters, gas stoves, fireplaces, charcoal grills and car exhaust. It can cause flu-like symptoms, vomiting, loss of consciousness, brain damage and eventually death.

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