Fire tips can avert disaster

John Day and Canyon City volunteer firefighters checked a residence on North Canyon Boulevard for a flue fire on Jan. 12. Here, safety officer Mike Westmoreland (left) and John Day fire chief Steve Allen clear a hot cinder from the stove. In 2001, there were 683 home heating-related fires in Oregon. These fires resulted in five fire fatalities and nine injuries causing an estimated $5,422,072 in property damage, according to the Oregon All Incident Reporting System. The Eagle/DAVID CARKHUFF

SALEM - Oregon State Fire Marshal Robert Garrison urges safety in citizens' efforts to stay warm this winter. Keys to safety include:

• Have a certified chimney sweep clean and inspect your chimney and fireplace for creosote build-up, cracks, crumbling bricks and obstructions.

• Place fireplace or wood stove ashes outdoors in a covered metal container at least three feet away from anything that burns.

• A flue fire can ruin your chimney or stovepipe. To prevent flue fires, burn dry, well-seasoned wood. Burn small, hot fires. Don't burn trash.

• Always use a fireplace screen made of sturdy metal or heat-tempered glass to prevent sparks from escaping. (If children are present, use a special child-guard screen as a barrier.)

• Give heaters space. Put at least 36 inches of clear space between the heater and everything else, like furniture, curtains, papers and people.

• Vacuum and clean the dust and lint from heating vents. A buildup of dust and lint can cause a fire.

• Have your furnace checked and cleaned regularly by a qualified repairperson. Be sure to leave all repair work to the experts.

• Check the cord on portable electric heaters. If the cord gets hot, frayed or cracked, have the heater serviced.

• Never use extension cords with portable electric heaters. It can overload the circuit and cause a fire.

• Turn off portable heaters when family members leave the house or are sleeping.

• An adult should always be present when a space heater is used around children.

• Make sure your portable electric heater is UL-approved and has a tip-over shut off function.

• Avoid kerosene heaters. They can emit poisonous fumes.

• If using a propane-fueled heater, make sure it is designed and approved for indoor use. Read all of the manufacturer's instructions and make sure it is properly vented.

• Working smoke alarms alert you to a fire and more than double your chances of surviving a fire. In a fire, minutes could mean the difference between life and death.

• Install smoke alarms in every home, on every level, outside each sleeping area and in each bedroom.

• Test and vacuum your smoke alarms each month to make sure they are working.

• Make a home escape plan and practice it with your whole family at least twice a year.

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