Winter: Alternative Heating Source Safety

snowflakeIf families use alternative heating sources during the cold weather (it’s a good idea to have one available in case the furnace fails), the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department recommends the following precautions:

  • Be sure to allow proper ventilation and place it in a safe location away from flammable objects. You should have at least 3 feet of clearance between your alternative heat source and anything that could burn.

  • Always turn off alternative heat sources before leaving or going to bed and do not leave children or pets unattended around any heating source. This includes extinguishing the embers in the fireplace – and never leave a fire burning unattended in the fireplace.

  • Use generators only as independent power sources. Keep them outside and run a cord inside. Don’t connect generators to main service panels. This could injure or kill utility workers trying to restore power.

Fireplace Safety

  • Use a sturdy screen in front of the fireplace to avoid sparks from flying out and igniting nearby objects and burn only clean wood.

  • The immediate area in front of a fireplace (approximately 3 feet) should not have a rug, carpet or exposed wood flooring.

  • Allow enough clearance between a wood-burning stove and combustible materials such as walls, floors and ceilings.

  • Make sure the flue is open before lighting a fire.

  • Never close the flue while a fire is still smoldering.

  • Never use gasoline or lighter fluid to start a fire.

  • When lighting a gas fireplace, strike the match first, then turn on the gas.

  • Burn only dry, seasoned wood and dispose of the cooled ashes in a closed metal container outside of your home.

Portable / Kerosene Heater

  • Don’t use an extension cord with a portable heater. The current from the heater could melt the cord and cause a fire.

  • Make sure the room has proper ventilation before using a kerosene heater.

  • Since a kerosene heater has a constant open flame, it should not be used in a room where there are flammable solvents, aerosol sprays, gasoline or any type of oil.

  • Do not use a fluid that is not recommended for your heater. Refuel outside and only after the heater has cooled down.

  • Check the heater’s wick every couple of weeks during the heating season. If the wick is dirty, clean it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


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