Seeking warmth? Keep fire safety in mind

December 28, 2017 GMT

ONTARIO — With the winter’s chill descending on the Western Treasure Valley, many individuals are seeking warmth, and whether it’s tending to a live fire or plugging in an electric heater, it’s essential to keep fire safety in mind.

The second leading cause of home structure fires in Oregon in 2016 were those related to heat sources. As published in an annual report by the Oregon Office of State Fire marshal, of the 2,818 home fires in the state 558 — or 20 percent — were a result of a heating source. The leading cause in 2016 related to cooking, with 586 fires recorded.

At a national level the numbers climb higher. Half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January and February.

To prevent most heat-related fires from happening, Ontario Fire and Rescue Chief Terry Leighton said there are several tips to keep in mind.

When it comes to furnace heating, the chief recommends regular maintenance including cleaning or changing the filter when needed to prevent the furnace plugging up, which could result in burning out the motor or belt. In that case, smoke or a a fire would be possible.

“I would recommend changing or cleaning it every three to six months,” Leighton said.

When it comes to portable and baseboard heaters, it’s important to keep it at least 3 feet away from materials that can burn, including blankets, clothing and upholstered furniture. Individuals are also reminded to turn off portable heaters when leaving the room, Leighton added.

Avoiding a circuit overload should also be a priority, which may cause a fire if the breaker isn’t tripped and the wiring becomes hot and is exposed to a potential fire.

This goes for any interior space, such as offices, shops and barns — not just homes.

Maintenance is also key for individuals with wood stoves or fireplaces, especially when the equipment is being used on a daily basis to keep warm.

“It’s important to clean the build up of creosote,” Leighton said.

The oil created from wood burning can cause buildup that is highly flammable.