By Adrian Sparrow
NeuLine Health

When the weather outside is frightful, a fire inside sounds delightful. However, heating fires are the second leading cause of house fires, which are also the most common disaster Americans experience. Here are some tips for exercising safety when heating your home this winter.

Fireplace Safety
Clear the area of anything flammable: move books, curtains, rugs, newspapers, and furniture away from the fireplace. A professional should check your chimney every year, but you should also look for animal nests and other possible blockages regularly. 

Clean out ashes from previous fires to help airflow around the burning logs. Use dry wood, which burns more evenly and with less smoke than wet or green wood. Consider using a safety screen to reduce the risk of stray sparks and burns. Ensure the damper or flue is open before starting a fire and kept open until the fire is completely out. Never leave a fire unattended: Ensure the fire is completely extinguished before leaving or going to bed. 

Space Heaters
Small space heaters are typically less expensive to use than complete heating systems. They can heat an especially cold room or help an individual who is sensitive to the cold. Some space heaters can be used inside your home, while others may not because they increase your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The heater should be proportionate to the room; don’t use a space heater in a space smaller than the manufacturer’s recommended square footage.

Be sure your space heater is in good working condition, and any safety measures work correctly. Always place the heater on a level, fireproof surface, and never leave a space heater unattended. Electric space heaters should be plugged directly into the wall. Vented combustion space heaters should be inspected every year to minimize the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use the approved fuel in liquid-fueled heaters; never use gasoline. 

Fire Preparedness
Here are some additional steps to protect your home and family from fire. 

-Change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every year, and test them every month. 

-Keep a fire extinguisher near the fireplace and kitchen. 

-Never leave a burning candle unattended. 

-Keep matches and lighters out of a child’s reach. 

-Designate a meeting spot and practice your household’s fire escape plan twice a year.