Citizens encouraged to assess home heating systems before use during colder weather
Nov 12, 2019

With colder mornings forecasted, leaders of the Columbia-Richland Fire Department are asking residents to inspect and make necessary repairs on their home heating devices before turning them on for the long winter season. Citizens are also strongly encouraged to monitor space heaters and fireplace fires if they intend to use either in their homes.

“The arrival of colder weather always goes hand in hand with the increased risk of property fires,” said Columbia-Richland Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins, “That risk can be GREATLY diminished with regular maintenance of your home’s heating system. Also, the use of fireplaces is expected to go up as we get into the holiday season. That creates a risk for more chimney fires in area homes.”

Each year heating systems are a leading cause of home fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The NFPA has also reported that heating equipment was involved in more than 54,000 reported U.S. home fires from 2011 to 2015. In many cases the leading factor contributing to the home heating fires was a failure to clean the heating equipment.

Here’s a few tips to heat your home safely this winter, courtesy of NFPA:

  •  Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  •  Have a 3-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  •  Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions. 
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.

  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.

  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month.
  •  Never use a portable generator inside your home. Place it outside and at least 10 feet away from the building.
  •  Install wood burning stoves following manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional do the installation. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
  •  Install and maintain CO alarms to avoid the risk of CO poisoning. If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.

Staff at the Columbia-Richland Fire Department are available for media interviews to promote the message of heating safety over the coming months.

Interested outlets should contact department PIO Mike DeSumma at 803-413-8555.