Officials offer tips to avoid fire during cold weather

The fire department and Red Cross share tips on how to avoid fires in cold weather.
Posted on Jan. 22, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

ELKHART — Low temperatures are expected throughout the rest of the week, and many who don’t have furnaces or even electricity may seek alternatives to stay warm.

However, officials in Elkhart County want to warn residents of the hazards some of these alternative heating devices can pose.

Sgt. Phil Schrock, with Goshen Fire Department, offered a few tips on what can be done to avoid an accident resulting in a fire.

Ÿ Do not place any items too close to heaters. Depending on the type of heater, furniture and other items have to be placed at a certain distance from it.

Ÿ Stoves are not recommended as a heat source. Nothing should be stored on top of stoves.

Ÿ Extension cords are not recommended for extensive periods of time, especially with portable heaters, which draw a lot of electricity.

Ÿ Do not place any extension cords across high-traffic areas of a house. That can cause wear and the wires will eventually wear through and cause a fire.

Ÿ A chimney is safe as long as it is maintained properly. A chimney needs to be inspected and cleaned at least once a year, before you start using it.

Ÿ If you have a stove, particularly a gas stove that has an open flame, do not walk out of the room while it is on.

Ÿ Wiring in older buildings should be fixed on a regular basis throughout the year.

Kimberly Stout, disaster services coordinator for the Red Cross, Elkhart County Chapter, said sometimes people may want to use candles or kerosene heaters, which can easily be knocked over. In addition, kerosene heaters can easily react to static electricity, which is common in cold and dry weather.

She recommended checking the home’s fire alarms to make sure they are working in case of an emergency.

“That saves more lives than anything else,” she said. “We can all try to prevent fires but if one of them happens you also want to know about it as quickly as possible.”

The Red Cross aids families who have been displaced from their home because of a fire. Stout said fire departments often call the Red Cross when there are house fires, but anyone in need of help can call 574-293-6519.

Stout said anyone in need of a warm area to stay in from the cold weather can call the Emergency Management Department to ask for shelter.

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