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News Maryland Harford County Forest Hill

Take precautions with home heating equipment when temperatures fall

As the temperatures in Harford County drop to extreme lows, people often depend on multiple types of heating sources to stay warm inside their homes, which often leads to an increase in the potential for house fires.

Maryland State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci recently released several life- and home-saving heating safety tips to consider during periods of extreme cold.

"Elements of heating resources continue to be a significant factor in home fires in Maryland," Geraci said in a news release. "Following these guidelines, we can work together to reduce the number of residential fires."

• Ensure chimneys are cleaned annually or more frequently if used as the primary heating equipment;

• Use properly sized fireplace screens or enclosures.

• Never use a flammable liquid to start a fire.

• When disposing of cooled ashes, do not use paper or plastic containers to remove them, instead use a metal container. Ashes will insulate hot embers long after the fire is considered out.

• Make sure fuel burning stoves are installed according to local fire codes and manufacturer's instructions.

• Have your furnace inspected and serviced annually.

• Check portable electric heaters for frayed/damaged wires and ensure they are clean and placed on a flat level surface.

• Use only "listed" appliances by an approved testing laboratory and follow manufacturer's instructions.

• Do not use extension cords with portable space heaters. The extension cord can overheat and cause a fire.

• If you use kerosene fuel fired heaters, use only "K-1" kerosene fuel. Never fill the unit inside, remove it to the exterior after it has cooled before refueling. Open a window enough to provide proper ventilation.

• Keep combustibles (furniture, curtains, clothing, paper goods, etc.), at least three feet from all heat sources.

• Fuel burning appliances can produce the deadly, tasteless and odorless gas known as carbon monoxide. Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms inside your home to provide an early warning of carbon monoxide levels.

• Always turn off portable heating equipment when leaving the room for extended periods. Portable heaters should never be operated unattended.

Along with these heating tips, check to make sure your smoke alarms are in good working order.

"Routine maintenance and safe operation of heating equipment, combined with properly installed and operating smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, are a life-saving combination for all Marylanders," Geraci said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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