Fire chief urges caution with heat equipment

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 23, 2018

With colder weather approaching that means more heating equipment is in use.

Andalusia Fire Chief Russell McGlamory  said, “There are several different things that can cause a fire because of heating equipment. One of the more common ones is the improper use of space heaters. Most of the time, people place them around clutter. Other times, people let them fall over. Now, most space heaters have a safety device that will turn them off if they get knocked over, but people still need to be careful with them.”

McGlamory said that the overuse of extension cords is another big problem during the winter.

“It is mostly just common sense when it comes to stuff like this,” McGlamory said. “I have seen some people run an extension cord under a carpet or rug. That is just not safe. It is pretty difficult to tell when an extension cord is malfunctioning, but if you smell like it is overheating or if it feels really warm then you should unplug it. Most importantly, even if the a power strip or extension cord has six plugs, that does not mean that you can plug six things into it.”

Some things that McGlamory said to look for when using heating equipment are frayed wires, dusty coils and visible damage.

“A lot of people don’t use this equipment for around nine months,” McGlamory said. “If it is dusty that can cause a fire hazard. That is also the problem with some people’s central heating. They will turn it on and then call about the smell.”

McGlamory also said that if citizens have not changed their smoke detector batteries, now is the time.

“We still have some smoke detectors available for people if they need it,” McGlamory said. “It is smart to check your smoke detector whenever the time changes. Since that happened a couple weeks ago, if you still haven’t changed the batteries you definitely need to now.”

Based on 2011-2015 annual averages from the National Fire Protection Association:

• Space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for just over two of every five (43 percent) of home heating fires and four out of five (85 percent) of home heating fire deaths.

• The leading factor contributing to home heating fires (28  percent) was failure to clean, principally creosote from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.

• Placing things that can burn too close to heating equipment or placing heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding, was the third leading factor contributing to ignition in fatal home heating fires and accounted for more than half (53 percent) of home heating fire deaths.

• Nearly half (48 percent) of all home-heating fires occurred in December, January and February.