NORMAN — Half of all home heating fires occur in December, January and February according to the Norman Fire Department.
The fire department urges caution and asks the public to practice safe heating behaviors as the peak time for home heating fires continues.
Heating equipment continues to be the second leading cause of home fires, cooking is first. It is also the second leading cause of home fire deaths behind smoking.
“Half of fatal home space heater fires started because something was too close to the heater and ignited. Keep heaters and things that can burn at least three feet apart,” said Fred Henderson, Fire Marshal for the City of Norman. “Heating fires and the deaths they cause can usually be prevented with awareness and a few simple actions.”
Items such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding are often too close to heating equipment contributing to space heater fires. Other leading factors were failure to clean, which is principally related to creosote build-up in chimneys, and leaving an operating space heater unattended.
“Whether your chimney supports a wood or coal stove or just a fireplace, be sure to have it cleaned and inspected at least once a year to reduce your risk of having a fire,” Henderson said. “And always turn off a portable space heater when you go to sleep or leave the room.”
The Norman Fire Department offers the following safety tips:
· Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fire and space heaters.
· Supervise children when a fireplace, fire pit or other space heater is being used.
· Use a sturdy, metal screen to prevent contact burns, which are even more common than flame burns.
· Keep things that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment.
· Use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
· Never use your oven for heating.
· Install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment, according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
· Have a qualified professional install the equipment.
· Make sure all fuel-burning vented equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. CO is created when fuels burn incompletely. CO poisoning can cause illness and even death. Make sure the venting for exhaust is kept clear and unobstructed. This includes removal of snow and ice around the outlet to the outside.
· Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms to avoid risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
· Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional.