PA State Fire Commisisoner Offers Tips to Prevent Winter Fires

HARRISBURG – With bitter cold weather affecting most of the state, fire Commissioner Edward A. Mann is urging Pennsylvanians to practice safety when they heat their homes.

“Because temperatures are so low, many people find alternative ways of heating their homes, which, unfortunately, create the potential for deadly fires,” Mann said. “Even though cold winter temperatures will always be a reality in Pennsylvania, we can practice fire safety to ensure a safer home for our families.”

Mann offered the following safety tips to keep homes safer this winter:

— Install at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home and in, or near, sleeping areas. In addition, test your alarms monthly and make sure fresh batteries are installed;
— Burn only seasoned hard wood – not trash, cardboard, paper or other combustibles since they may contain toxins or contribute to buildups in chimneys that could lead to serious fires;
— Keep all people and flammable materials, including kindling, furniture, clothing and pets, at least 36 inches away from fireplaces and wood stoves;
— Open flues before using the fireplace. Also, make sure fireplaces have screens or doors to keep embers inside;
— Don’t forget to keep young children away from wood stoves to avoid contact burn injuries;
— Purchase electric space heaters that have the label of an independent testing laboratory, such as United Laboratories. Remember to turn off space heaters before leaving the room and when going to sleep;
— Kerosene heaters must never be filled inside the home or garage.

Remember to use the recommended grade kerosene and never use an alternative fuel, such as gasoline;
— Supervise children and pets when heaters are used;
— Never use space heaters to dry clothing.
— Fuel-burning appliances such as gas, wood or kerosene can emit dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that claims hundreds of lives every year. Install at least one CO alarm to protect sleeping areas;
— Never use an oven or range to heat your home. Never use a gas or charcoal grill inside the home;
— Remember that gas-fueled portable electric generators must be used outside, never indoors or in an area that allows CO to collect;
— Candle use presents an increasingly dangerous fire hazard. Keep candles away from flammable materials like furniture and curtains, do not permit children to keep or use candles in their rooms. Remember to place candles where pets won’t knock them over;
— Check the gauge of fire extinguishers to make sure they are properly charged. Keep fire extinguishers in the garage, basement, kitchen and car, and teach family members how to use them.

It’s also very important to develop a home-escape plan and practice it in case of a fire. Additionally, make sure you know when and how to call for help and remember to never re-enter a burning building for any reason.

For more information about fire safety, visit the Office of the State Fire Commissioner Web site at

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