As the temperatures plunged below freezing and below zero this winter many residents are using electric heaters, wood burning stoves, fireplaces, or other alternative and supplemental heating sources to keep warm. And too often, these heating sources are causing fires.
“What we have seen a lot of is an increase in fires from alternative heating,” Union Township Fire Chief Stanley Deimling said.
Deimling said he believes the reason for an increase in fires from these alternative heating methods has occurred because of prolonged use.
“This winter more than any recent winter, has called for continuous use for extended time,” Deimling said.
Deimling said they have responded to several fires involving wood burning stoves, space heaters, heat lamps, or other heating devices in the township and while assisting other townships and villages in the county.
In addition, Deimling said they have also responded to incidents where individuals have used alternative heating to keep animals warm.
“I don’t remember ever seeing as many fires with people trying to keep animals warm,” Deimling said.
He said the majority of these fires start because individuals aren’t aware of, or haven’t followed the recommended practices that are issued by the manufacturer of the devices.
“They all come with manufacturers suggestions and safety practices,” Deimling said.
Deimling said normally these include making sure there is adequate space around an electric heater, heat lamp or other device to prevent any type of material from being too close and catching fire.
He said regulations also highlight how devices or other sources of heat, including a wood burning stove or fireplace should be maintained and cleaned.
“Always have stoves and wood chimneys inspected and cleaned by a professional,” Deimling said.
Deimling said they have responded to several chimney fires this year where the chimney was not properly cleaned and there was a buildup because of extended use.
He said when used a lot, sometimes stoves and chimneys should be cleaned multiple times per year.
Aside from using alternative heating properly, Deimling said his other suggestion for individuals is to make sure to have working smoke alarms and Carbon Monoxide detectors.
“The two things that are going to save lives is working Carbon Monoxide and smoke detectors,” Deimling said.