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Household devices like smoke detectors will help keep you and your family safe.

Drexel Heights Fire District asks our community to be aware of a potential killer that lurks in every home. That killer is fire, and it has struck many communities throughout the United States, quickly and often without warning this winter season. Research suggests more than one-third of home fires in the United States occur during the winter months of December, January and February. These months pose a higher fire threat due to the increased use of heating sources such as chimneys and wood stoves, as well as fuel-fired and electric heaters. Drexel Heights Fire District stresses the following safety tips for this winter season:

Have an escape plan and practice it regularly. Make sure all family members, especially children, know how to get out of the house from several locations, and have a prearranged place for everyone to meet once they are out.

A single candle, when placed near most upholstered furniture, a personal computer, newspapers, Christmas trees, stuffed toys or drapes, is more than capable of starting a fire that will destroy a home, as well as everything and everyone in it. Deaths from candle fires have more than doubled over the last decade. For a safer home: Avoid large displays of burning candles. Never leave candles burning when you are not there to watch them. Keep burning candles out of the reach of children or pets.

There’s plenty more you can do to stay safe. Do not overload electrical outlets or extension cords or run extension cords under rugs or in the normal path of travel. Make sure to keep exits free of furniture or other household items.

Have your furnace and chimney professionally inspected and cleaned. Chimney tar build-up can ignite your chimney, roof, and the whole house.

Keep cigarettes, lighters, and matches away from children. And do not try to extinguish a house fire. Get everyone out and then call 9-1-1.

Make sure to install smoke alarms and keep them maintained. Proper maintenance includes testing monthly, battery replacement twice annually, and always keep them clean.

Space heaters provide supplemental heating, but it trails only cooking equipment as the leading cause of home fires. Here are some things to keep in mind with space heaters:

Space heaters need space, so keep combustibles at least three feet away from each heater, and make sure to turn the heater off when you leave the room, or when you sleep. Use space heaters only for their intended purpose and when buying a new unit, make sure it carries the mark of a nationally recognized testing laboratory. Be sure that a qualified technician installs the unit or checks that the unit has been installed properly. Look for automatic shut-off features and heating element guards.

Fuel portable kerosene heaters in a well-ventilated area away from flames or other heat sources, and only when the device has cooled completely. Use only the type of kerosene specified by the manufacturer, and never use gasoline.

Be sure any gas-fueled heating device is installed with proper attention to ventilation, and, if un-vented gas space heaters are used in bedrooms or bathrooms, they must be small and wall-mounted.

If your electric space heater has a frayed cord or overheats, don’t use it. Also avoid using extension cords with electric space heaters. If an extension cord must be used, make sure that the cord is of the right size (gauge) and type for your heater. Keep the power cord away from high traffic areas.

For more information on Drexel Heights Fire District programs, please call us at 883-4341. You can also check us out on our website at www.drexelfire.org

The Drexel Heights Fire District Board meets on the third Friday of each month at 9 a.m. in the training classroom next to Station # 1, located at 5030 S. Camino Verde. The public is encouraged to attend. 

Tracy Koslowski is the Drexel Heights Fire District Public Education/Information Manager.

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