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Metro Newsroom

Metro Government Promotes Winter Fire Safety

Friday December 30, 2005

With home-heating costs rising, so are the numbers of residents using space heaters and fireplaces to warm their homes. Today firefighters from the Louisville Fire Department and several suburban fire departments joined Mayor Jerry Abramson in launching a public-service campaign reminding citizens of the importance of wintertime fire safety.

“Don’t let efforts to warm your home cause a tragedy in your home,” Abramson said while MetroTV videotaped segments of a public-service announcement. He said the public-service campaign is designed to “remind our residents of the simple things they can do at home to ensure they and their families are safe this winter.”

Louisville Fire Department Chief Greg Frederick said his fire companies, in the past five years, have responded to about 60 house fires resulting from heating equipment, and that those fires caused almost $800,000 in property damage. “It’s always a leading cause of house fires this time of year, and has the potential to be even more prevalent this winter as more people may look to use alternative methods to heat their homes.”

The Louisville Fire Department provides fire protection to the urban-services district, which represents roughly one-third of Louisville Metro residents. But winter fire safety is not just an urban issue and, for the first time, suburban firefighters are combining with Louisville firefighters for a joint public-safety campaign. “All 18 suburban fire districts have to respond hundreds of these types of calls each year, and it’s always difficult when someone loses their home, or worse, as a result of trying to heat their home,” said McMahan Fire District Chief Paul Barth, who serves as Abramson’s liaison to suburban fire departments. Barth said that fire investigators suspect a fatal house fire in Middletown in November resulted from improper use or installation of a wood-burning stove.

The public-service announcement will air on MetroTV, and will be offered to local network affiliates and Insight Cable for broadcast. In addition, firefighters from the Louisville Fire Department and several suburban fire departments will make free in-home safety inspections. To schedule an inspection, call your fire department or contact MetroCall 311 for your fire department’s contact information.

Abramson and the fire departments offer the following tips for winter fire safety at home:

Furnaces - Furnaces should be inspected yearly by a certified technician, and filters should be changed monthly. All fueled heaters must be vented in accordance with local building and fire codes to prevent build-up of dangerous carbon monoxide. 

Fireplaces - When using your fireplace, always protect your home from sparks by using a screen made of sturdy metal or heat-tempered glass. Burn only wood in your fireplace, be sure that dampers are in proper working order, and never leave fires unattended, especially in an area used by children or pets. Remove ashes in a metal container and store them outside. Have your chimney inspected and cleaned once a year by a certified technician, or whenever you suspect a problem. 

Space Heaters - Portable space heaters should be placed at least three feet away from furniture, walls, curtains, or anything that burns, and always turn them off when you leave home or go to bed. 

Liquid Fuel - If your space heater runs on liquid fuel, such as kerosene, let the heater cool down before refueling it. Adding fuel to a hot heater can cause the fuel to ignite. Refuel your heaters outside, where spills won’t present a fire hazard. Use only the fuel recommended by your heater’s manufacture. Never put gasoline in any space heater. 

Electrical Cords - Keep electrical cords out of traffic paths and away from areas where children play. Keep cords well maintained, and replace any cord that is cracked, frayed or otherwise damaged. Never pinch an electrical cord against walls or furniture. Do not run extension cords under carpets or across doorways. Have a professional electrician replace old or damaged outlets with modern, receptacles that have proper grounding.