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Fire department shares check list for home safety

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Christmas trees are a beautiful tradition for the holidays, but they are often a tinderbox when lights are left on overnight or while a family is away from home.

Christmas trees are a beautiful tradition for the holidays, but they are often a tinderbox when lights are left on overnight or while a family is away from home.

With the potential for snow around the corner, it is a good time to take some steps to ensure your home is safe from fire this winter season. During the cold weather, the Springfield Fire Department sees an increase in the number of incidents involving home heating systems. Rural fires are also commonplace, and often more dangerous because volunteer fire departments must often travel for several miles to fight a fire that already has a head start by minutes or hours.

It is said that the time to take action for an unexpected event it’s before it happens. Most fires and fire related injuries could have been prevented with little effort and minimal cost. To not find yourself in a dangerous situation, here is a few simple safety tips to prepare your home for an emergency, and teach your family how to escape in case of a fire.

Most Common Causes

One of the best ways to prevent a fire is to know what are the most common causes and what areas of your home are more prone to it.

The kitchen is the most common place where fires begin. In the kitchen you will find flammable items that, if too close to a source of heat, could catch on fire. The kitchen is also a great area to have a fire extinguisher on hand.

Many individuals leave electrical devices connected and unattended, which is a common source of fires.  To prevent any accidents take a moment to inspect the electrical devices and appliances in you home. Make sure there are no broken or exposed wires that can ignite a fire.

  • Do not run your appliances while away from your home.
  • Make sure dust and debris do not build up by cleaning out filters.
  • Don’t overwork an outlet with too many plugs.

To keep your home and family safe, the Springfield Fire Department adds the following cold-weather recommendations:

  • Never plug a space heater into an extension cord.
  • Keep combustibles at least three feet from space heaters, fireplaces, and heating stoves.
  • Ensure that you have a working smoke alarm in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home; test the batteries monthly, and change them at least once a year.
  • If you use any gas-burning appliances, like hot water heaters, fireplaces, stoves, or furnaces, be sure to have a working carbon monoxide alarm.
  • Never use gasoline or other flammable liquids to light a fireplace. It’s a deadly combination.
    Use only seasoned wood in fireplaces.
  • Never place ashes from a wood stove or fireplace in a garage or next to the outside of the house. Place them in a metal container away from all structures. They can contain embers days after they are believed to be extinguished.
  • Although we do not recommend kerosene heaters used indoors, if you do, use only K-1 kerosene and not gasoline or camp stove fuel – both explode easily.
  • Have your heating system checked by a professional prior to its first use. The check should ensure the flue/chimney is clear of obstructions, filters are replaced and the flame is properly adjusted. If you are a CU customer and your pilot light is out, contact them and they will come out and light it free of charge.
  • According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2011, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 53,600 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated losses of 400 civilian deaths, 1,520 civilian injuries, and $893 million in direct property damage. These fires accounted for 14% of all reported home fires.

If you live in the City of Springfield and do not have at least one smoke alarm in your home, you may contact the Springfield Fire Department at 864-1515 to have one installed for free.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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