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updated: 1/3/2012 5:54 AM

Tips for safe use of space heaters, fireplaces

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By Tony Rodkey
Countryside Fire Protection District

The Countryside Fire Protection District cautions residents regarding the potential hazards of space heaters and fireplaces.

These two heat sources keep us warm in winter but represent a leading cause of home fires and fire fatalities during the holidays and winter season, according to the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal.

Nationally, heating equipment caused an estimated 66,100 home structure fires, resulting in 480 civilian deaths, 1,660 injuries and $1.1 billion in direct property damage in 2008.

"Because home heating fires are often the result of human error, the majority of them are preventable," says Larry Matkaitis, Illinois State Fire Marshal. "By following basic safety precautions and making some simple modifications and adjustments, people can greatly reduce their risk."

OSFM offers the following advice to stay warm and fire-safe:

• All heaters need space. Keep things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.

• Use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.

• Install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer's instruction. Have a qualified professional install the equipment.

• Make sure all fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. CO is created when fuels burn incompletely. CO poisoning can cause illness and even death.

• Make sure the venting for exhaust is kept clear and unobstructed. This includes removal of snow around the outlet to the outside.

• Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms inside your home to provide early warning of carbon monoxide.

• Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional.

• Turn off space heaters when you leave a room or go to sleep.

Countryside also asked residents to clear snow from fire hydrants near their home, which will help all fire departments in an emergency.