Posted: Monday, October 29th 2012 at 11:29am
Fire officials urge caution with first cold snap
By B.J. Williams Editor
GAINESVILLE - As temperatures drop, the number of residential fires usually increases, according to local fire officials, and they're issuing the usual warnings, hoping to avoid trouble as North Georgia heads for the first cold snap of the season.
While most of the extreme cold will occur in the mountain areas, according to forecasters, low temperatures are expected to drop into the mid to upper 30s in the Gainesville area. That's enough to prompt people to bring out the space heaters and fire up the fireplaces.
Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle said typically the elderly and lower income families wind up in trouble with alternate heating sources in cold weather. He said they try to save money by using space heaters or even ovens to warm living spaces.
"We would much rather them use extra blankets and quilts rather than turn their oven on and open the oven door," said Cagle.
Cagle said cooking remains the top cause of residential fires, but space heaters come in a close second during cold weather.
He said Fire officials recommend that residents consider the following safety guidelines when using fireplaces or wood stoves:
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 use flammable liquids to start a fire.
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.
He said those people who use electric space heaters should remember:
Space heaters need space. Keep items at least three feet away from each heater – in front, behind, above, and below!
When buying a space heater, only buy one with a safety feature that automatically shuts off the power if the heater falls over, and that has been evaluated by a testing laboratory.
Space heaters require a large amount of electricity. When using a space heater, do not plug anything else into the same outlet.
Never leave space heaters unattended. Turn them off and unplug them when leaving the home or when going to bed at night.
Cagle also said another problem that arises during the winter months is carbon monoxide (CO). He said the gas can be emitted by gas-fired appliances, charcoal grills, wood-burning furnaces or fireplaces and motor vehicles. Cagle noted that CO poisoning is deadly. His recommendations for avoiding carbon monoxide problems are as follows:
Never use your range or oven to help heat your home and never use a charcoal grill or hibachi in your home or garage.
Never keep a car running in a garage. Even if the garage doors are open, normal circulation will not provide enough fresh air to reliably prevent a dangerous buildup of CO.
Install at least one carbon monoxide alarm with an audible warning signal near the sleeping areas and outside individual bedrooms.
In addition Cagle said this first cold snap serves as a good reminder to check operation of smoke alarms, and he said it's a good time to review a home escape plan should a fire break out.
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