Red Cross: Fires, carbon monoxide in homes can be deadly

Published Jan 3, 2018 at 4:00pm

If your home has a space heater or is equipped with a fireplace or wood-burning stove, you are among the nearly half of American families who use alternative heating sources in the winter. Although alternative heat sources can make a home considerably more comfortable, they also can raise the fire risk, according to the American Red Cross.

Fixed and portable space heaters, including wood stoves, are a leading cause of home fires, and are involved in 74-percent of fire related deaths, the Red Cross reported this week.

Carbon monoxide also is deadly. The Red Cross warns that each year more than 200 Americans die from carbon monoxide produced by fuel burning appliances in the home, including furnaces, ranges, water heaters and room heaters.

Readers probably know where this opinion is headed. First, we’re writing to remind everyone to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and ensure that batteries are in operating order.

Second, see that everyone in the home knows how to properly use space heaters and wood burning stoves. They might seem like simple devices, but they’re extremely risky if used by someone who isn’t familiar with their functions and potential hazards.

People should keep paper, clothing, bedding, rugs or anything that could be a potential source of fuel at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves or fireplaces.

Here are other tips from the Red Cross:

- Don’t leave portable heaters and fireplaces unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.

- Use space heaters only on level, hard and nonflammable surfaces, such as ceramic tile floors — never on rugs or carpets.

- Don’t buy space heaters that don’t shut off automatically if tipped over.

- Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

For lots of other safety tips, people can download the Red Cross Emergency app which combines more than 35 emergency alerts to help keep users safe.

Also, you can visit redcross.org/homefires to find out more about how to protect yourself and your loved ones from fire.

Red Cross volunteers respond to nearly 64,000 fires and other disasters every year, so give them a break by preventing fires in your house.