Traditional Values, Progressive Thinking – Stay safe heating your home in the winter

Mayor Gary Graham

Mayor Gary Graham

This week (October 9 – 15, 2016) is Fire Prevention Week in O’Fallon. During Fire Prevention Week, the O’Fallon Fire Department will be joining forces with the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to remind local residents of the vital importance of replacing the smoke alarms in their homes at least every ten years and to determine the age of their smoke alarms by checking the date of manufacture on the back of the alarms. This year’s theme is “Don’t Wait – Check the Date, Replace Smoke Alarms Every Ten Years.”

In addition to Fire Prevention Week, the O’Fallon Fire Department will be hosting its Annual Fire Prevention Open House on October 11 – 13, 2016 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. each day at Fire Station #4 (1215 Taylor Road). There will be numerous activities for the family to enjoy at the event and it will all be free. Everyone is invited!

Not only is it Fire Prevention Week, but the weather is finally beginning to get colder. Cold and often stormy fall and winter weather presents many safety challenges for our residents, both indoors and out. Being prepared and following simple safety tips can help you and your family stay safe and warm this fall and winter.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is the leading cause of home fires during the fall and winter months. Most heating equipment fires start as a result of misuse or improper maintenance. When purchasing new heating equipment, be sure to select products that have been tested and approved by an independent testing laboratory. Install and maintain heating equipment correctly, and be sure it complies with local fire building codes. If you have any fuel fired appliances, please remember to have a working carbon monoxide detector.

Listed below are various types of heating equipment along with the United States Fire Administration’s safety tips for each:


Be sure all furnace controls and emergency shutoffs are in proper working condition. Leave furnace repairs to qualified specialists. Do not attempt repairs yourself unless you are qualified. Inspect the walls and ceiling near the furnace and along the flue line. If the wall is hot or discolored, additional pipe insulation or clearance may be required. Check the flue pipe and pipe seams. Are they well supported; free of holes, and cracks? Soot along or around the seams may be an indicator of a leak. All unused flue openings should be sealed properly by qualified personnel. Keep trash and other combustibles away from the heating system.

Kerosene Heaters

Be sure your heater is in good working condition. Inspect exhaust parts for carbon buildup. Be sure the heater has an emergency shut off in case the heater is tipped over. Never use fuel burning appliances without proper room venting. Burning fuel (coal, kerosene or propane) can produce deadly fumes. Use only the fuel recommended by the heater manufacturer. Never introduce a fuel into a unit not designed for that type of fuel. Keep kerosene, or other flammable liquids, stored in approved metal containers in well ventilated storage areas outside the house. Never fill the heater while it is operating or hot. When refueling an oil or kerosene unit, avoid overfilling. Do not use cold fuel for it may expand in the tank as it warms up. Refueling should be done outdoors. Keep children away from space heaters; especially when they are wearing night gowns or other loose clothing that can be easily ignited. When using a fuel burning appliance in the bedroom, be sure there is proper ventilation to prevent a buildup of carbon monoxide.

Wood Stoves and Fireplaces

Be sure the fireplace or stove is installed properly. Wood stoves should have adequate clearance (36”) from combustible surfaces, and proper floor support and protection. Wood stoves should be of good quality, solid construction and design, and should be UL listed. Have the chimney inspected annually and cleaned if necessary, especially if it has not been used for some time. Do not use flammable liquids to start or accelerate any fire. Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace opening to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out, unwanted material from going in, and to help prevent the possibility of burns to occupants. The stove should be burned hot twice a day for 15-30 minutes to reduce the amount of creosote buildup. Don’t use excessive amounts of paper to build roaring fires in fireplaces. It is possible to ignite creosote in the chimney by overbuilding the fire. Never burn charcoal indoors, as burning charcoal can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide. Keep flammable materials away from your fireplace mantel. A spark from the fireplace could easily ignite these materials. Before you go to sleep, be sure your fireplace fire is out. Never close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace. A closed damper will help the fire to heat up again and will force toxic carbon monoxide into the house. If synthetic logs are used, follow the directions on the package. Never break a synthetic log apart to quicken the fire or use more than one log at a time. When broken apart, the logs often burn unevenly, releasing higher levels of carbon monoxide.

The safety of our residents is very important to me and by working together we can make sure that our loved ones remain safe and sound this fall and winter. Please feel free to call the Fire Department at 624-4515 for answers to specific questions about fire safety issues. The strong working relationship between City Hall and the residents we serve is yet another example of why O’Fallon is such a great community in which to live.