January 2013 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

firefighter_running_400_clr_5899The local Maine weather report states frigid temperatures are expected. The high cost of home heating fuels and electricity have caused many people to look for other sources of warmth. More than one third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves, pellet stoves, and/or space heaters as their primary source of heat. Wood stoves cause over 4,000 residential fires every year. People living in rural areas are more than twice as likely to die in a fire as those living in a city or those living in the suburbs. Heating fires account for 36% of residential fires in rural areas every year.

The United States Fire Administration and FEMA offer the following recommendations for people using wood stoves, pellet stoves and fireplaces. Make sure the fireplace or wood stove is installed properly. Wood stoves should be placed away from combustible surfaces. Stoves require proper floor support and protection. Use seasoned wood only for wood stoves and pellet stoves. Burn the stove hot at least twice/day for fifteen-thirty minutes to reduce creosote build up. Avoid excessive amounts of paper to build a fire. Creosote can ignite in a chimney by over building a fire. Allow ashes to cool, place them in a metal container, and place the container outside and away from the house. Stack firewood outside at least thirty feet away from your home. Never use flammable liquids to start a fire in a wood stove or in a fireplace. Keep a glass or metal screen in front of a fireplace opening to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out, to prevent unwanted material from going in, and to prevent the possibility of burns to people in the house. Keep flammable items off the fireplace mantel. Never leave a fire in a fireplace unattended. Before you go to bed at night, make sure your fireplace is out. Never close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace. This can force carbon monoxide into the house.

Inspect your chimney every year and have the chimney cleaned when necessary. You should never burn charcoal in a house. Burning charcoal can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide. Be sure every level of your home has a working smoke alarm. Also place fire alarms inside and outside of sleeping areas. Check fire alarms every month and change batteries at least once/year. Plan and practice a home escape plan. Always supervise children wherever a wood stove, pellet stove, space heater, or fire place is being used. Consider child proof fencing to keep children at least three feet away from these heat sources. Contact your local fire department for any questions about home fire safety.

For more information, visit www.usfa.fema.gov. Stay warm and stay safe.