It’s the time of year to check your heating system, officials say
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - As the seasons start to change and the weather gets colder, Alaskans’ homes get warmer too, which can sometimes be dangerous.
“So we look at 2018 to 2020, there were actually over 1,300 residential fires that were just related to the heating fires,” said Virginia Lauer-McMichael, a fire training specialist for the Alaska Department of Public Safety.
Most of the fires nationally happen during the colder months between December and February. Something else to keep in mind is that most heating equipment needs to get checked every year.
Residential fires caused by heating systems or equipment made up 53% of all residential fires during that time period, resulting in an estimated $24 million lost, according to the department.
“This is the time of year that it’s really important for everyone to make sure that their heating equipment had been serviced and inspected by individuals that are qualified to do that,” Lauer-McMichael said. “It’s important to get those chimneys checked, it’s important to get those wood stoves checked.”
It’s also important to make sure fire alarms work. During those 1,300 residential fires between 2018-2021, 35 smoke detectors failed to work. The main culprit? The batteries were either missing or disconnected.
Lauer-McMichael recommends people keep the batteries in, and change them twice a year.
“It is really important to make sure that your smoke detector is working,” she said. “In the case if you’re sleeping, your family sleeping, and there’s a fire then it’s important to be alerted early. Most people think that people die in the fires when they have fire fatalities because of the actual fire, but it’s not, it’s because of the chemicals and things in the smoke that kill people and so the fire may not even reach somebody in the home. It’ll be the smoke that will get them.”
And at the end of the day, people should make sure to check warning systems and ensure heating devices are turned off.
Lauer-McMichael said one should maintain a 3-foot radius around all heating devices and for the heating equipment that has embers, a screen and fire resistant rug should be put in front of those. Also, don’t use an oven to heat a home.
For more information and advice on planning and prevention, visit the National Fire Protection Agency website.
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