Oswego County Fire Coordinator Urges Caution This Heating Season

Oswego County Fire Coordinator Donald Forbes urges everyone to take common-sense precautions to minimize the risk in their homes, especially as fuel oil and natural gas prices rise.

“Heating equipment is the leading cause nationally of winter home fires, and those fires are a major threat here inOswegoCounty,” he said.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is the leading cause of home fires in the months of December, January and February. “The organization estimates that roughly 55,000 home heating equipment fires occurred in the latest year the organization studied,” Forbes said.

Forbes encouraged county residents to follow fire safety and prevention tips provided by the NFPA and the US Fire Administration. Here are some things you can do:

  • Keep things that burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment. “One of the most common causes of fires is improper clearance to combustibles.”
  • Use fireplaces, woodstoves, and furnaces properly and carefully, with good maintenance. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Get furnaces and chimneys inspected once a year and cleaned or repaired if needed.
  • Closely watch children and pets in rooms with heating equipment, and keep them safely away.
  • Turn off portable space heaters when you get ready to sleep or if you leave the room.

“Get your chimney inspected and your furnace tuned up in early winter,” said Forbes. “Make sure you have a fireplace screen. If you’re buying new heating equipment, select products listed by an independent testing laboratory. Choose a qualified installer and follow all codes and manufacturers’ instructions. And save the user’s guide that comes with the heating equipment, so you can keep it properly maintained in the future.”

Forbes also reminded residents that each home should have at least one working smoke alarm. “Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home,” he said. “Test it monthly, keep it free of dust, and replace the batteries at least once a year.”

People should also know what they should do if fire strikes. “Here’s what to do if you’re caught in a residential fire,” Forbes said:

  • Plan your escape routes now. Determine at least two ways to escape from every room of your home. If you must use an escape ladder, make sure everyone knows how to use it.
  • Select a location outside your home where everyone would meet after escaping. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year.
  • Once you are out, stay out! Call the fire department from a neighbor’s home.
  • If you see smoke in your fire escape route, use your second way out. If you must exit through smoke, crawl low under the smoke to escape.
  • If you are escaping through a closed door, feel the door before opening it. If it is hot, use your second way out.
  • If smoke, heat, or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with the door closed. Signal for help using a bright-colored cloth at the window. If there is a telephone in the room, call the fire department and tell them where you are.

“Preventing heating equipment fires is simple,” Forbes concluded. “Just keep these safety tips in mind, and you’ll be on your way to a safer heating season.”