Fire chief provides safety tips for winter heating

Near arctic temperatures this new year have spawned a series of structure fires and suppression system malfunctions in the area.


There are some common sense ways to protect lives and property during such cold spells, according to Bellefontaine Fire Chief Andy Fissel.

“Never leave a (portable) heater unattended,” he said topping his list of things to avoid or watch out for. “If you have to leave the room, unplug it.”

His department responded this week to a minor fire at the Pink House, 600 Jay Ave., where a portable heater was placed in a crawl space to thaw frozen pipes.

There have been other fires in the city over the years where space heaters were left running too long or too near furniture and drapes.

Rushcreek Fire Department dealt with three separate fires Tuesday and one, a house fire at 5918 E. State Route 274, was most likely a result of space heaters overloading electrical circuits.

Chief Fissel said frozen pipes can be a problem, but the best way to avoid an issue is to open a faucet slightly to allow a trickle of cold water. As long as water moves through a system, the pipes should not freeze.

If pipes freeze, he strongly recommends calling a plumber. Never, he said, use an open flame heat source to thaw the pipes.

His other tips include:

• don’t use an oven for heat;

• make sure wood is clean and seasoned for use in stoves and fireplaces;

• have the chimney cleaned and inspected annually;

• place a carbon monoxide detector in a spot where people can hear it if it goes off;

• don’t warm up cars in attached garages as carbon monoxide can build up inside the residence even with an open garage door;

• keep portable gas-powered electric generators 20 or more feet from the structures;

• make sure the exhaust vents for high-efficiency furnaces and water heaters are not plugged by accumulated snow near house foundations; and

• replace smoke detectors that are 10 or more years old and carbon monoxide detectors that are five or more years old.

As for fire suppression systems, property owners need to make sure systems that carry water are heated even if the building is vacant.

Chief Fissel said regular inspections can help avert problems and property owners should learn what to look for to spot issues early on.