Oswego County Public Information Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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Feb. 9, 2007


Fulton - The extreme cold and heavy snow from this week’s lake effect storm can bring fire hazards to the forefront, and the Oswego County Fire Coordinator’s Office reminds local residents to follow fire prevention and safety tips.

“In this kind of weather, people may be heating their homes with space heaters and wood stoves,” Deputy Fire Coordinator Jack Cottet said. “They need to be aware of and follow the safety precautions for each one of these devices to avoid a fire in their home.”

Propane tanks outside homes also pose a threat, Cottet said. “LP gas can accumulate around structures that are surrounded by high snow banks,” he said. “People should keep snow and ice away from the LP and natural gas meters and regulators on their homes. They should also be aware of the locations of emergency shut-off valves and make sure they can access them if needed.”

Especially for wood stoves, other alternate sources of heat, and electrical appliances, Cottet urged people to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. “That’s the best,” he said. “One of the most common causes of fires is improper clearance to combustibles.”

Also, Cottet said, as people clear their driveways and paths to their homes, they should remember to make sure their house numbers are visible from the street. “Emergency crews need to be able to find your home in an emergency,” he said. “While fire and emergency services personnel have a general idea of your location, a visible house number will save time and ensure they get to your house sooner.”

Cottet encouraged local residents to follow fire safety and prevention tips from the U.S. Fire Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

  • Every home should have at least one working smoke alarm. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home. Test it monthly, keep it free of dust and replace the batteries at least once a year. Replace the detector itself after 10 years.
  • Teach children to be safe. Children under five are naturally curious about fire. Many play with matches and lighters. Tragically, children set over 20,000 fires every year. Teach your children that fire is a tool, not a toy, and keep lighters and matches locked up and out of their reach.
  • Prevent electrical fires. Never overload circuits or extension cords. Do not place cords and wires under rugs, over nails or in high traffic areas. Immediately shut off and unplug appliances that sputter, spark or emit an unusual smell. Have them professionally repaired or replaced.
  • Use appliances wisely. Follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions. Overheating, unusual smells, shorts and sparks are all warning signs that appliances need to be shut off, then repaired or replaced. Unplug appliances when not in use. Use safety caps to cover all unused outlets, especially if there are small children at home.
  • Follow safe cooking practices. Keep items away from the stove that could catch fire, such as towels, clothing and curtains, and plastic. Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and learn how to use it.

Cottet urged people to use alternate sources of heat properly, especially following manufacturer’s instructions:

  • Portable heaters need space. Keep anything combustible at least three feet away. Plug heaters directly into the wall socket and unplug them when not in use.
  • Keep fire in the fireplace. Use fire screens and have your chimney cleaned annually. The creosote buildup can ignite a chimney fire that could easily spread.
  • Wood stoves cause over 9,000 residential fires annually. Carefully follow the manufacturer’s installation and maintenance instructions. Use only seasoned wood for fuel, not green wood, artificial logs or trash. Inspect and clean your pipes and chimneys regularly and check often for damage or obstructions.
  • Kerosene heaters should be used only where approved by authorities. Never use gasoline or camp stove fuel. Refuel outside and only after the heater has cooled. Use the heater in a well ventilated room.

The deputy fire coordinator also offered advice on what to do if you are caught in a residential fire:

  • Plan your escape routes. Determine at least two ways to escape from every room of your home. If you must use an escape ladder, be sure everyone knows how to use it.
  • Select a location outside your home where everyone would meet after escaping. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year.
  • Once you are out, stay out! Call 911 from a neighbor’s home.
  • If you see smoke in your first escape route, use your second way out. If you must exit through smoke, crawl low under the smoke to escape.
  • If you are escaping through a closed door, feel the door before opening it. If it is hot, use your second way out.
  • If smoke, heat, or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with the door closed. Signal for help using a bright-colored cloth at the window. If there is a telephone in the room, call 911 and tell them where you are.

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