Editorial: Don't become a statistic; stay warm safely

With fuel costs rising, many are seeking more affordable and alternative ways to stay warm. According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), more than one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances as primary heat sources in their homes. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the fire risks when heating with wood and solid fuels. Heating fires account for 36 percent of residential home fires in rural areas every year.

The USFA offers the following fire safety tips -

• Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.

• Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials.

• Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces.

• 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.

• Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves.

• Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.

• Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup.

• Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.

• Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove.

• Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.

• Soak hot ashes in water and place them in a metal container outside your home.

• Stack firewood outdoors at least 30 feet away from your home.

• Keep the roof clear of leaves, pine needles and other debris.

• Cover the chimney with a mesh screen spark arrester.

• Remove branches hanging above the chimney, flues or vents.

• Install smoke alarms on every level of your home. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Consider installing the new long life smoke alarms.

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