City of Saginaw, Michigan

Heat Sources Safety

Each year in America, fire claims the lives of 4,000 individuals, injures tens of thousands, and causes billions of dollars' worth of damage. Due to the misuse of wood stoves, fireplaces, portable space heaters, and kerosene heaters, those living in rural areas are more than twice as likely to perish in a fire than those living in mid-sized cities or suburban locations. The United States Fire Administration (USFA) believes that teaching individuals how to recognize potential hazards can significantly reduce fire danger in rural areas. The following precautionary steps can greatly reduce an individual's chances of becoming a fire casualty.

Wood Stoves

Over 9,000 residential fires occur each year from wood stoves. To reduce the risk of fire, carefully follow the manufacturer's installation and maintenance instructions. Look for solid construction, such as plate steel or cast iron metal. Check for cracks and inspect legs, hinges, and door seals for smooth joints and seams. Use only seasoned wood for fuel, not green wood, artificial logs, or trash. Inspect and clean your pipes and chimneys annually and check monthly for damage or obstructions. Be sure to keep combustible objects at least three feet away from your wood stove at all times.

Electric Space Heaters

Only purchase heaters approved with the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) safety listing. Check that the heater has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the unit falls over. Heaters are not dryers or tables; do not dry clothing or store objects on top of the heating unit. Space heaters need open space around them; keep combustibles at least three feet away from each heating unit. Remember-always unplug your electric space heater when not in use!

Kerosene Heaters

Only purchase UL-approved heaters and check with your local fire department the legality of kerosene heater usage in your community. Never fill your heater with gasoline or camp stove fuel; both flare up easily. Only use crystal clear K-1 kerosene. Never overfill any portable heating unit and only use your kerosene heater in a well-ventilated room. Utilize a screen heavy enough to stop logs from rolling out and large enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace and catch flying sparks. Do not wear loose- fitting clothing near any open flame and make certain the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to sleep.

Wood Burning Fireplaces

Due to regular build-up of creosote, fireplaces need to be cleaned frequently and chimneys should be inspected regularly for obstructions and cracks to prevent deadly chimney and room fires. Check to make sure the damper is open prior to starting your fire. Never burn trash, paper, or green wood in your fireplace, as these materials quickly cause heavy creosote buildup and are difficult to control. Store cooled ashes in a tightly sealed metal container outside the home. Having a working smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. Remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family.

Portable Generators Hazards

Portable generators are useful when temporary or remote electric power is needed, but they can be hazardous. The primary hazards to avoid when using portable generators are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock or electrocution, and fire. The United States Fire Administration (USFA) indicates that there are simple steps you can take to prevent the loss of life and property resulting from the improper use of portable generators.

To Avoid Carbon Monoxide Hazards:

  • Always use generators outdoors and away from doors, windows, and vents.
  • NEVER use generators in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, or other enclosed or partially enclosed areas, even with ventilation.
  • Follow manufacturer's instructions.
  • Install battery-operated or plug-in (with battery backup) carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in your home, following manufacturer's instructions.
  • Test CO alarms often and replace batteries when needed.
  • NEVER cook inside or heat your house with a gas, wood or charcoal grill.
  • PAY attention to flu-like symptoms, especially if more than one person has them. Headache, dizziness, confusion, fatigue and nausea are all common symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure.
  • MOVE outside to fresh air immediately if a carbon monoxide leak is suspected. Go to the emergency room or call 911 if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.

To Avoid Generator Electrical Hazards:

  • Keep the generator dry. Operate on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure.
  • Dry your hands before touching the generator.
  • Plug appliances directly into generator or use a heavy-duty outdoor-rated extension cord. Make sure entire extension cord is free of cuts or tears and the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin.
  • NEVER plug the generator into a wall outlet. This practice, known as back-feeding, can cause an electrocution risk to utility workers and others served by the same utility transformer.
  • If it's necessary to connect the generator to house wiring in order to power appliances, have a qualified electrician install appropriate equipment. Or, your utility company may be able to install an appropriate transfer switch.

To Avoid Fire Hazards:

  • Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool. Fuel spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
  • Always store fuel outside of living areas in properly labeled, non-glass containers. Store fuel away from any fuel-burning appliance.

For More Information Contact:

The United States Fire Administration
National Fire Protection Division
16825 South Seton Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727