We are now in the middle of the coldest season for Northeast Florida. With the cold comes the use of heaters and other devices to stay warm. Northeast Florida has already had several fires caused by space heaters and other heating devices. Here is some very important information that you need to remember about staying warm in the few days of cold that we get here in Northeast Florida.
Space heaters need space. They need to be a minimum of three feet away in every direction from anything combustible including drapes, loose clothes, bed linens, and the walls of your dwelling. Never use the heater as a way to dry or warm up your clothes. If you leave the house for even a few minutes turn off the heater. Always remember to turn it off before you get into bed. While you are sleeping it could ignite something and cause a fire that could be deadly. Keep children and pets away from the heaters, they get very hot and the children and pets may get severe burns from touching the heaters. If someone does get seriously burned call 9-1-1.
Carbon Monoxide is a very dangerous gas. You can not see, smell, or taste it. It is the number one cause of accidental poisoning in the United States. When you inhale carbon monoxide it attaches to your blood cells and then it decreases the oxygen supply to your body. In effect it suffocates you without you realizing it. The symptoms are very similar to those of the flu. Low-level symptoms include tiredness, dizziness, headaches, nausea or vomiting and shortness of breath. Your skin may also turn pink in response to rising blood pressure. It will be apparent that the cause of the symptoms is carbon monoxide if you start to feel better upon exiting the structure or if someone else starts to feel sick upon entering the structure. If you experience any of these symptoms call 9-1-1. Carbon Monoxide is emitted in low levels by all fossil fuel burning appliances including: space heaters, ovens, wood stoves, fireplaces, clothes dryers, and any other appliance that operate on gas, wood, oil, or coal. The best protection from carbon monoxide poisoning is to install a carbon monoxide detector. They can be found at any home improvement store. Install a detector outside of every bedroom and at least one on every level of your home. If your detector goes off gather all of the members of the home and exit the home. Once outside, call 9-1-1 and report that your carbon monoxide detector went off. The fire department will respond and find the source of the carbon monoxide. Don’t use any gas-fuelled appliances as alternative indoor heating sources.
Fireplace chimneys need to be professionally cleaned and inspected at least once a year. Bird’s nests, twigs, and old mortar can prevent proper ventilation and lead to a dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide gas in your home. Always use a fire screen when using the fireplace; this will prevent embers from escaping the fireplace and potentially lighting the house on fire. Never burn trash or paper, as it can escape through the chimney and start a brush fire. Put ashes in metal containers and never store them inside the home. Never leave a fire lit when you leave your home or go to bed. A fire that is not constantly watched can easily become a major problem.
If you must put heat lamps out for the pets or livestock make sure the lamp can not be tipped over or drop to the ground. If it touches the ground the bulb has enough energy to easily ignite just about any type of material, especially any material used for bedding.
If a fire does start, for whatever reason, do not hesitate to call 9-1-1. A fire that starts out small can become very destructive if it is not extinguished quickly. Never attempt to put out a fire by yourself if it is larger than a wastebasket, just exit the structure, call 9-1-1, and wait for the fire department. We only get a few days of cold in our area, so please keep a constant watch on any heaters, fires, and heat lamps that you may use on those days.
Stay safe while you stay warm!
Public Information Officer
Ratliff Community Volunteer Fire Department
January 26, 2012