State Fire Marshal Urges Tennessean to Heat Homes Safely

Wednesday, December 07, 2016 | 03:28pm

NASHVILLE - The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) reminds Tennesseans to keep safety in mind as they heat their homes during the winter season. Residents are urged to use extra caution with the use of alternate heat sources, such as portable heaters.

"We cannot stress enough the importance of following safety precautions when heating your home during the colder months," said Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak. "Employing just a few basic steps this winter can help ensure that your family is kept as safe as they are warm.”

Heating equipment is a major cause of home fire devastation. According to State Fire Marshal’s Office data, from 2011-2015, Tennessee fire departments responded to 2,572 home structure fires that involved heating equipment. These fires resulted in 53 fatalities. Heating equipment fires accounted for 8 percent of all reported home fires and 13 percent of all home fire deaths during that time period.

Some simple precautions can prevent most heating-related fires from happening:

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Burn only dry, seasoned wood in fireplaces and woodstoves. Never burn garbage or use flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
  • If the pilot light of your gas heater goes out, allow 5 minutes or more for the gas to go away before trying to relight the pilot. Follow manufacturer’s instructions when relighting the pilot. Do not allow gas to accumulate, and light the match before you turn on the gas to the pilot to avoid risk of flashback.

Don’t forget to install smoke alarms on every level of your home and test them monthly. Develop and practice a home fire escape plan with everyone in your home. The plan should include two ways out of every room and a designated meeting place outside where everyone can be accounted for.

Tennesseans in need of a smoke alarm can utilize the SFMO’s online alarm form to request a free installation.