Fire chief warns of winter home heating hazards

By Joe Beck

The arrival of cool temperatures heralds a time of year when fire crews are called out to quell incidents started by chimneys, fireplaces and wood stoves.

Warren County firefighters have already been called out to three chimney fires since Oct. 1, a reminder of some of the hazards associated with heating homes.

Fire Chief Richard E. Mabie said none of the fires caused injuries or major property damage, but such fires are preventable and pose a continuing threat unless residents take proper safety precautions.

Mabie called on residents with wood stoves or fireplaces to check their chimneys for any damage or creosote build up left from the past heating season. Cracks or loose mortar should be repaired and the creosote removed before stoves or fireplaces are used, Mabie said.

Mabie also recommended that residents use proper fire fuel. Hardwoods such as oak, ash, hickory, and cedar are the best choices. The wood should be seasoned and placed on a firewood grate.

Mabie said colder temperatures and road conditions that can slow the response times of firefighters are two factors that make it harder to stop fires in the winter.

“Certainly the guys are working in a colder environment and that takes a toll on them,” Mabie said in an interview.

Other safety tips listed by Mabie include:

• Clearing debris from around the fireplace to prevent fire from spreading outside a safely contained area;

• Using a fireplace screen and making sure the damper is in the open position while the fire is burning. The damper should be closed to retain heat after the fire is extinguished;

• Clean and inspect fireplaces annually;

• Check fireplace flues for bird nests and other obstructions, and trim overhanging branches and trees that are too close to chimneys;

• Keep fire extinguishers nearby and make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are tested every month to ensure they are working.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com