Keep home fires burning safely

It’s a winter where heating fuel costs are expected to skyrocket. That makes many Canadians consider supplementary heating sources for their homes. This can be a money saver. It’s also a great way to create a cozy atmosphere on chilly winter evenings. But before you start the home fires burning, make safety a priority.

Heating alternatives such as gas fireplaces, wood stoves, and space heaters carry a risk of fire. Poisoning from combustion gases is another threat if equipment is misused or not properly maintained. And the risks are real. There were 3,858 fires started by heating equipment in Canada in 1997 (the most recent statistics available). These fires killed 20 Canadians and injured 147. Another 24 deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning from home heating equipment.

Safe heating tips
To ensure a safe winter heating, follow these tips:

  • Make sure your home always has a fresh air supply. If your home is very well sealed or not well ventilated, carbon monoxide can build up to dangerous levels.
  • Have your heating system, including the chimney, inspected and cleaned once each season. Well-maintained equipmentrevents fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If you use a wood stove, get professional advice on installing it safely.
  • If you use a kerosene space heater, use only the fuel recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Always keep a supply of fresh air (open a window slightly) to ensure that carbon monoxide does not build up in the room.
  • Keep space heaters at least one metre (three feet) away from other objects such as curtains, bedding and furniture.
  • Never leave children in a room alone when a space heater is in use.
  • Never drape clothing over a space heater to dry.
  • Never use your cooking range or oven to heat your home, even for a short time.
  • Never use a barbecue inside your home or in any enclosed space such as a garage.
  • Remember that most home fireplaces are not intended as a primary heating source. Continuous use can be dangerous.
  • Keep children well away from the doors of gas fireplaces, which heat to more than 200 degrees Celsius in minutes and remain very hot for more than 45 minutes after shut off.
  • Keep smoke detectors in good working order.
  • Install at least one carbon monoxide detector in your home, especially near bedrooms.

The early warning signs of low-level carbon monoxide poisoning are tiredness, headaches, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, and reddening of the skin.

Once you’re confident all is in good working order, fire up your heat source, and enjoy the winter safely inside your cosy nest.