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December 28, 2012

  12/31/12 Cold weather is here, and many Hoosiers turn to alternative heating methods to keep warm. The Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office wants to remind Hoosiers are to take extra care when using alternative heating methods to stay warm in their homes.

Alternative heating methods include fireplaces, gas or electric space heaters, wood burning stoves, and other fuel-burning sources.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2010, heating equipment was the second leading cause of home fires in the United States. More than 57,000 reported fires caused 490 deaths, 1,530 injuries, and more than $1 billion in property damage. Half of all home heating fires occurred in December, January and February.

“Every winter, firefighters across the state respond to thousands of home fires caused by improper heaters, fireplaces, wood burning stoves, etc.,” said Indiana State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson. “Anyone using heating equipment other than a central heating system needs to follow all manufacturer directions and exercise extreme caution to avoid starting a fire.”

The Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office is a division of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS).

According to NFPA, between 2006 and 2010, the leading factor contributing to home heating fires was failure to properly clean creosote, an oily deposit that easily catches fire, from solid-fueled heating equipment such as chimneys.

  • Use only dry, seasoned wood in a fireplace or wood stove to avoid the build-up of creosote,
  • Use only paper or kindling wood, not a flammable liquid, to start the fire. Do not use artificial logs in wood stoves.
  • Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room.
  • Allow fireplace and woodstove ashes to cool before disposing in a metal container, which is kept a safe distance from your home.

Space Heaters
If you have a space heater, know how to use it safely to avoid the risk of fire.

  • Space heaters need space. Keep heaters away from flammable materials such as bedding, drapes, clothing, etc.
  • Use the proper grade of fuel for your liquid-fueled space heater and never use gasoline in any heater not approved for gasoline use.
  • Refuel space heaters only in a well ventilated area and when the equipment is cool.
  • Plug power cords only into outlets with sufficient capacity, never into an extension cord.
  • Turn off space heaters whenever the room they are in is unoccupied.
  • Turn off space heaters when you go to bed each night to avoid knocking them over in the dark.

Knowing how to use your generator properly can protect you and your family from Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

  • Never use a generator inside.
  • Place emergency generators outdoors away from windows and doors to prevent fumes from entering the home.
  • Have a CO detector in the house that sounds an alarm when dangerous carbon monoxide levels are found.

For more tips on being prepared for winter weather, visit