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Fire Safety Tips For The Fall Season
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By PIO / Fire Prevention Officer Scot Best
October 12, 2021

As the leaves turn from green to orange, the weather starts to cools, and you begin preparing for the cold season ahead. You’re excited for Halloween and can’t wait to start decorating your home. But have you thought about the fire safety risks that arise during the fall? During the fall and winter months, fire hazards in your home stem largely from heating the space. According to the American Red Cross, there is even a drastic increase in the amount of US house fires during this time. Here are a few important seasonal fire safety tips to keep in mind:

1. Change smoke/carbon monoxide detector batteries and test the alarms. Ensures the alarms are all operational and won’t fail when you turn the heat on in your home. Don’t forget to also test the smoke alarms after change the batteries. Clean dust and cob webs from around the cover to let air flow inside. Replace units that are 10 years old, or if reliability is in question. Push the test button once a month to make sure it works properly. Check that all fire extinguishers are in working order when you adjust the clocks each season.

2. Fully check and service your heating devices before cranking up the heat:
- Have your HVAC system inspected, cleaned, and serviced by a certified HVAC contractor. Check and replace furnace filters.
- If you use a fuel furnace, regularly replace furnace filters. Keep all areas around the furnace clean and unobstructed. Keep the burner area clean and clear of debris. Keep all combustible items at least six-inches away from the vent pipe. Never close off more than 20% of heat registers. Make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home.
- If you use space heaters, inspect them for proper operation and damage, including the power cord. Ensure there’s at least three feet of space around them. Don’t place fabrics on space heaters to dry, and turn heaters off when going to bed.
- If you use a fireplace, hire a professional chimney sweep to inspect and clean your chimney. When building a fire, strategically place logs on a metal grate at the back end of your fireplace; always use kindling to ignite fire. Keep fires small – Never overload your fireplace. Never leave a fire unattended. Use a fireplace screen, guard, or glass doors to keep hot ash and sparks contained. Store extra wood, and other types of combustible materials, at least five-feet away from your fireplace. For natural gas fireplaces, get all connections and lines inspected before use.
- **Never use any type of fuel powered heating device inside a closed structure. Not only are they a fire safety threat, but propane and kerosene powered heaters emit carbon monoxide (an odorless gas) which can accumulate rapidly in an enclosed area and have deadly results. Never use gasoline in any space heater.

3. Outdoor fire risks – As leaves and other flammable debris build up around your home, make it a habit to remove them periodically. Prune trees and rake up leaves and twigs. Don’t store fuel in your home or garage. Keep your roof, gutters, and downspouts clear of debris and remove fuel from lawn mowers before storing them for winter. Flammable liquids should not be stored inside the home or in an attached garage or shed.

4. Create a fire escape plan and practice it regularly. Designate an escape route for each area of your home and establish a single meeting place outside. Practice escaping your home while staying low to avoid breathing in smoke. Also practice escaping through windows using emergency ladders. Children need to know how to save themselves when no one can help them. Practice the plan once a year or anytime living arrangements change in the home.

5. Halloween safety – Keep decorations away from open flames and other heat sources, and use battery-operated lights instead of candles in jack-o-lanterns. We strongly advise you not to use real candles for decorating your home. Make sure that children's costumes are made with fire retardant materials. Use only fire-retardant holiday decorations. Verify that all holiday lights and extension cords have been tested by an organization such as Underwriters Laboratory.

Follow these tips, and don’t let a fire ruin your fall.

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Ridge Volunteer Fire Department, Inc.
13820 Point Lookout Road
P.O. Box 520
Ridge, MD 20680
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Non-Emergency: 301-872-5571
E-mail: info@ridgevfd.org
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