Official urges fire and heating safety with extreme cold

DOVER — For the most part, common sense trumps the dangers of trying to beat the winter cold.

Delaware’s extended freeze and lurking storm will test that belief again, a state fire official said Wednesday.

“People think in the winter months this is what’s coming and this is what we have to do,” Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael G. Chionchio said.

“There are typically few extreme weather conditions in Delaware but when they do arise I’d say most are well prepared. Unfortunately some aren’t and that’s where we come in.”

This winter, fire officials have investigated five to six blazes started by ashes improperly stored in cardboard boxes and outside instead of contained in burn-free metal containers away from buildings, Mr. Chionchio said. Faulty extension cords on heaters can be problematic, too, he said.

Residents also are urged to clear snow away from nearby fire hydrants as a preventive safety measure.

“It could possibly save your home or somebody else’s,” Mr. Chionchio said.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal released the following safety tips people should take prior to a significant winter event, including:

• All appliances should only be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and specifications.

• For wood stoves or fireplaces, have a professional inspect the chimney, chimney connector and other related equipment every year, and have them cleaned as often as the inspections indicate.

• Home heating appliances should be inspected annually to check for leaks and to improve efficiency.

• Space heaters should be at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn such as curtains, furniture, and bedding.

• Fuel portable kerosene heaters in a well-ventilated area away from flames or other heat sources, and only when the device has cooled completely. Use only the type of kerosene specified by the manufacturer, and never use gasoline.

• Portable space heaters should be turned off every time you leave the room or go to bed.

• Allow ashes to cool before disposing. Dispose ashes in a metal container. Keep the metal container outside away from the house.

• Never refuel a kerosene heater inside the home.

• Never use a gasoline fueled portable generator inside the home.

• Test your smoke detectors once a month.

• Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

• Develop and implement a fire escape plan and include children and holiday visitors into the response procedures.

• Consult organizations such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission to keep current with recent recalls and safety bulletins.

•Contact your local fire department or fire marshal’s office if you have a question regarding home fire safety.

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