Fire chief Harold Schapelhouman offers winter safety tips to avoid house fires

by Chris Gulker on December 30, 2009

Data shows that home fires  occur twice as often during the winter months. Menlo Park Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman offered advice to Menlo residents on how to stay safe from  fires and other hazards this winter at a recent safety demonstration.

  • Never leave a fire of any kind, including candles, unattended, especially if children or pets are present.
  • Have your chimney and fireplace inspected and cleaned before the start of the winter months – creosote buildup presents a serious fire hazard.
  • Use a fireplace screen and be sure it’s in good repair and properly positioned.
  • Burn only seasoned firewood in a fireplace. Never burn materials like trash, including holiday wrappings.
  • Always put out fireplace fires before going to bed (most fatal fires occur between midnight and 6:00 AM).
  • Make sure smoke detectors and carbon-monoxide alarms are tested monthly and have fresh batteries (it’s a good idea to do this when it’s time to reset clocks for daylight savings).
  • Have gas furnaces and heaters inspected periodically by a certified professional to make sure they are burning cleanly, and that vents and flues are in good repair to avoid introducing carbon monoxide into living areas.

Other tips include using a spark arrestor over your chimney, especially if you have one of Menlo Parks’ older, picturesque but dangerous and now-deprecated shake roofs.

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