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Fire Safety

Health
3 mins
October 5, 2020

by Noel Barteck

A while back several individuals were transported by our Department to the Marshfield Medical Center with Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning.  The source of the CO was a grill which was used in the foyer of the apartment building in which they lived.  All the apartments had to be evacuated until the air could be determined to be safe.  This was an inconvenience for some and could have been a potential disaster for all involved.

Additionally, with chillier weather upon us, many Americans have begun to use alternate sources of home heating. Also, since the cost of fuels and other utilities have increased, we have begun to rely on space heaters and alternative fuels more and more.  Space heaters are selling rapidly, or coming out of storage, and the use of wood stoves has increased. Fireplaces are burning wood and man-made logs, and pellet stoves or corn burners are becoming more popular.

All of these methods of heating may be acceptable; however, they are a major contributing factor in residential fires.  Many of these fires can be prevented. In the past years our Department has responded to several home fires that were caused by misuse of a space heater.   A few safety tips can help you maintain a fire safe home this winter.

When using kerosene heaters, be sure your heater is in good working condition. Inspect the exhaust ports for carbon buildup.  Make sure the heater has an emergency shut off in case it is tipped over.  It would be a good idea to test this feature outside any buildings to be sure it works.

Never use fuel-burning appliances without proper room venting.  Burning fuel (kerosene, propane, or coal, for example) produces deadly fumes like carbon monoxide.  Be particularly certain there is proper ventilation if you are using a fuel-burning appliance for auxiliary heat in a bedroom, to prevent the buildup of deadly carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is sometimes called the silent killer, because you may not even be aware of its presence.  A good CO detector is a definite advantage in such situations.  This is how levels of CO will affect the average person:

0 -10% =    A decrease in mental acuity (this level is likely found in a smoker’s blood)

10 - 20% = You will notice a slight headache

20 - 30% = You will notice a severe headache

30 - 40% =  Illness, possibly fainting, will result

40 - 50%  = The person will most likely be in a coma

50% up  =  Death is the most likely end result

Store the kerosene or other flammable liquid in an approved metal container, in a well-ventilated storage area, outside of the house.  Use ONLY the fuel recommended by the heater manufacturer.  NEVER introduce a fuel into a unit not designed for that type fuel.

NEVER fill the heater while it is operating or hot.  Use caution when putting cold fuel into the tank, as it will expand when it warms up.  Avoid overfilling, and always refuel outside the home (preferably outdoors).

When using electric space heaters (as well as other space heaters), be sure they are placed a safe distance from any combustible materials.  Be very aware of curtains, bedding or other materials that might blow onto, or fall onto an operating space heater.  If an object is too hot to touch, it is too close to a space heater.

Finally, keep young children safely away from space heaters - especially if they are wearing nightgowns or other loose clothing that can easily be ignited.


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