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Staying comfy and cozy — and safe

By Sarah Buhs/ Cloquet Area Fire District

If you have kerosene heaters, woodstoves, fireplaces or furnaces that burn oil or natural gas in your home, you are at risk for potential fire and /or carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Home heating equipment is essential, but it isn’t safe unless you give it proper attention.

These heating safety tips from Cloquet Area Fire District (CAFD) could save your life and your property from disaster.

• Chimneys should be checked by a qualified chimney sweep before and during the heating season. Both the fireplace and chimney should be checked for structural integrity. Wet ashes down and dispose of them in metal containers. Never burn trash, charcoal or plastics in your wood-burning appliance. These items can overheat and cause a fire; they also release dangerous pollutants.

• Portable electric heaters are intended to heat a small space for a short period. They must be kept at least 36 inches from anything that can burn, and must never be left on when occupants are gone or sleeping.

• Gas heating equipment is doubly dangerous; it can cause both fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have an unvented, gas-fired space heater, be sure it has an oxygen depletion sensor to detect reduced oxygen levels and shut off the heater before carbon monoxide accumulates.

• Fuel your portable kerosene heaters outdoors, in a well-ventilated area when it has cooled completely. Never use gasoline instead of kerosene.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

About 230 people die each year from CO poisoning related to fuel-burning household appliances. CO is a tasteless, odorless and very lethal gas, easily absorbed into the blood. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath and nausea, which are sometimes dismissed as a “touch of the flu.” Don’t be fooled — get to fresh air.

For more information on home heating safety, go to the Minnesota State Fire Marshal Web site at us.

“Safe home heating means proper installation, use and maintenance,” said CAFD Captain Sarah Buhs, “Knowing about fire dangers and eliminating risks is essential preparation for winter.”

The CAFD would like every home and family to follow these tips.

“And please, make a home fire-escape plan and practice it,” Buhs said. “If tragedy strikes, a safe escape is the only alternative.”

If you have questions about home heating or any fire issue, call the CAFD at 218-879-6514.