Brrr! Do the chilly temperatures have you dreaming of cozy gatherings around a brightly lit fire? Or maybe your home’s heating systems are working double time to keep you warm this winter. Los Alamos Fire Department says safety must be a top priority regardless of the type of heat source you are utilizing. Heating is the second leading cause of home fires. Follow Los Alamos Fire Department’s suggestions to keep your home warm and safe.
“The biggest mistake is putting something too close to a heating source,” says Division Chief Ramon Garcia. Keep anything that can burn 3 feet away from space heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves, and radiators. Remember that skin burns too. Make sure that people and pets stay 3 feet away.
Only use portable or kerosene heaters that have been listed by a testing laboratory (look for the laboratory’s label). These heaters should have an automatic shut-off switch so that if they are tipped over, they will turn off on their own. Plug portable electric heaters directly into the wall outlet; don’t use an extension cord or power strip. Kerosene heaters should only be refueled in a cooled heater outside. It is highly recommended that if utilizing a kerosene heater that you have carbon monoxide detectors.
Peak times for home heating fires are between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Turn space heaters off when you leave the room or before you go to asleep.
“Have your fireplace and wood stoves inspected before you begin using them each year,” says Los Alamos County Fire Department Division Chief Ramon Garcia. “Have the chimney cleaned to remove creosote, which can ignite and start a chimney fire.”
Use a tempered glass or metal screen over the fireplace opening to keep sparks inside. Never burn papers, trash or liquids. Burn only wood in fireplaces and wood or wood pellets in wood stoves. Openings to fireplaces or wood stoves can get hot enough to burn skin, keep children and pets far away from them.
Disposing of Ashes
Improper ash removal from fireplaces and wood burning stoves causes thousands of fires in the U.S. every year. According to NFPA, almost 10,000 fires are caused yearly due to improperly removing and discarding ashes. Hot coals are insulated in ashes, and can stay hot for days. All that is needed for coals to ignite is more oxygen.
Ashes should never be emptied in a combustible container some of these include paper or plastic bags, plastic buckets and cardboard boxes. The only suitable means for ash removal and storage is a metal container with a tight-fitting metal lid. For additional safety the Los Alamos Fire Department recommends that ashes be sprayed with water before placing the metal lid. Store containers outside away from your home until ashes are completely cold, preferably on a non-combustible surface such as stone, concrete, brick or slate.
Hot ashes should never be disposed of at the Eco Station, in your trash carts or dumpsters. Ashes should only be disposed once they are completely cooled.
Green Uses for Wood Ash
Wood ash from your fireplace have some great uses for your green living. Wood ashes are high in potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and phosphorous which makes for a great soil additive for your plants. Place approximately a quarter cup of cooled ashes directly into the hole when planting.
Wood ashes can enrich your compost. Sprinkling a few ashes will be enough to enrich its nutrients, adding too much can ruin your compost. When used around your landscaping or gardens wood ash can help repel pests.
Ashes can be used in the winter to melt ice and add traction without hurting the soil or concrete underneath. Ashes can eliminate the use of salt for icy sidewalks.
Ashes can be used to clean your glass fireplace doors. Take a damp sponge dipped in the dust to scrub away residue from glass. Ash can be used to clean brass and silverware.
Always call 9-1-1 for fires no matter how small. For more safety information, contact the Los Alamos Fire Department at 505.662.8301, visit us at www.losalamosnm.us/fire, or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Los-Alamos-Fire-Department.