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Take precautions when hearing homes
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With nighttime low temperatures expected to dip into the 20s and 30s during January, many folks will likely turn to alternative sources of fuel such as space heaters and fireplaces to warm their homes. Alternative sources of fuel can be beneficial, but firefighters warn they can also pose fire hazards if safety guidelines are ignored.   
According to, heating is the second leading cause of home fires. Fire safety experts say that nearly 36,000 fires and 250 deaths occur each year from portable heaters, fireplaces and chimneys.
Hinesville Fire Department Capt. Kris Johansen said winter-related home fires can be prevented by proper placement of space heaters and routine cleaning of fireplaces and chimneys.
“Make sure you don’t put your space heaters next to your bed or other furniture or near blankets or draperies,” Johansen said.
The firefighter said he knows of some fires that were caused when people carelessly threw a blanket or piece of clothing over a space heater.
“Don’t use extension cords with space heaters; plug them directly into the wall,” he added. “Keep space heaters away from pets and children.”
Fire safety experts also advise homeowners to choose space heaters that turn off automatically if they tip over and remind residents to turn off space heaters before going to bed.
Residential fires are also often caused by dirty chimneys, Johansen said.
“Always make sure your flue is open before you start a fire in the fireplace,” he said. “A closed flue can cause a lot of smoke. And get your chimneys professionally cleaned once a year.”
Johansen said residents also should not burn certain types of wood because that cause more grime to build up in a chimney.
“Don’t burn pine in a chimney. It causes it to gum up,” he said.
Johansen said homeowners should make sure they have a metal or glass screen in front of a fireplace, to keep sparks from flying out into a room and to help protect pets and children from getting too close to the fire.
People should also avoid burning cardboard, newspaper or trash, say fire safety experts. They can burn too hot and cause a chimney fire.
Homeowners should also be sure vent pipes extend at least three-feet above the roof and should install stovepipe thermometers to check flue temperatures, according to
“And residents should make sure the fire is out before they go to bed,” Johansen said.
The Hinesville fireman also advises homeowners to check their smoke detectors each month to be sure they are operational and to change the batteries in smoke detectors twice a year.
“When it’s time to change the clocks forward or backward, that’s when you should change the batteries,” he said.
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