LIVINGSTON COUNTY – The Livingston County Sheriff’s Office has responded to over thirty-five structure fires throughout the county since November 2014, and within the past week three homes have been lost to fire.
According to a press release from Sheriff Thomas Dougherty, with the hard winter months upon us, some homeowners have been using alternate heat sources, and need to be aware that some heating methods can prove to be fire hazards.
“Please make sure that your chimney is cleaned yearly and is free from any obstructions,” said Sheriff Dougherty. “Keep combustible materials away from stoves and fireplaces. Also make sure that any snow on or around your chimney is cleared away so it will not obstruct the smoke and gasses from escaping. Carbon Monoxide is a silent killer. Always remember, a clean source of heat is a safe one.”
The Sheriff added that some heaters can produce a power draw that can overwork outlets or the unit themselves, and homeowners should make sure that these units are not used on extension cords, this may cause extra load on the unit or the outlets. Proper use is essential to the safety of these units.
Sheriff Dougherty says that wood stoves, fireplaces, and pellet stoves can also provide an excellent source of heat, if they are used properly.
The Sheriff added more steps homeowners can take to make their homes safer from fire, including installing smoke detectors, checking smoke detectors once a month and changing their batteries at least once a year, as smoke detectors sense abnormal amounts of smoke or invisible combustion gases in the air. They can detect both smoldering and burning fires. At least one smoke detector should be installed on every level of a structure.
The Sheriff says that folks should purchase smoke detectors labeled by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM).
The Sheriff also included a list of safety tips:
Post emergency numbers near telephones.
Be aware that if a fire threatens your home, you should not place the call to emergency services from inside the home. It is better to get out and place the call to fire authorities from a safe location outside the home.
After a fire emergency
Give first aid where appropriate. Seriously injured victims should be transported to professional medical help immediately. Stay out of the damaged building. Return only when fire authorities say it is safe.
Make sure you have a safe fire escape method for all situations
You may have installed a very expensive home security system. But if you cannot escape the burning structure you have a false level of confidence.
Space Heaters Need Space
Keep portable and space heaters at least 3 feet from anything that may burn. Never leave heaters on when you leave home or go to sleep. Children and pets should always be kept away from them.
Smokers Need To Be Extra Careful
Never smoke in bed or when you are sleepy. Carelessly discarded cigarettes are a leading cause of fire deaths in the United States.
Be Careful Cooking
Keep cooking areas clear of combustibles and wear short or tight-fitting sleeves when you cook. Keep the handles of your pots turned inward so they do not over-hang the stove. If grease catches fire, carefully slide a lid over the pan and smother the flames, then turn off the burner.
Matches and Lighters are Dangerous
In the hands of a child, matches and lighters can be deadly! Store them where kids can’t reach them, preferably in a locked area. Teach children that matches and lighters are “tools” and should only be used by adults.
Use Electricity Safely
If an appliance smokes or has an unusual smell, unplug it immediately and have it repaired. Replace frayed or cracked electrical cords and don’t overload extension cords. They should not be run under rugs. Never tamper with the fuse box or use the improper size fuse.
Cool a Burn
If someone gets burned, immediately place the wound under cool water for 10 to 15 minutes. If the burn blisters or chars, see a doctor immediately.
Be Careful of Halogen Lights
If you have halogen lights, make sure they are away from flammable drapes and low ceiling areas. Never leave them on when you leave your home or office.
Make sure all family members know what to do in the event of a fire. Draw a floor plan with at least two ways of escaping every room. Make a drawing for each floor. Dimensions do not need to be accurate. Make sure the plan shows important details: stairs, hallways and windows that can be used as fire escape routes.
Test windows and doors—do they open easy enough? Are they wide enough or tall enough?
Choose a safe place to meet outside the house in the event of a fire.
Finally, practice alerting other family members. It is also a good idea to keep a bell and flashlight in each bedroom.
PHOTO CAPTION: Top – Firefighters on scene of a fire that destroyed a home in Mount Morris on Feb. 11. Bottom – Firefighters on scene of a fire that destroyed a home in Livonia on Valentine’s Day. (Photo/Conrad Baker)