ATLANTA — Winter is the season when the incidence of fires goes up, but when temperatures plummet, carbon monoxide — a colorless, odorless gas — becomes a threat.
Residents seeking alternative ways to heat their homes in the winter should make sure they are using equipment properly and that they have the proper safety devices installed should something go wrong.
"Any time you have something that is burning fuel, it is taking oxygen out of the air and creating carbon monoxide," Georgia Fire Marshal Dwayne Garriss said.
That includes fireplaces and cooking appliances. Any time a generator is used, it should be placed outside the home, he said, away from windows and doors where gas can seep into the house.
In addition, make sure your house is equipped with proper safety equipment.
"Smoke detectors are required in the house," Garriss said. "You must have one on all levels and after 10 years replace them." Purchase the detectors from a reputable source to avoid counterfeiting, he said.
You should also have fire extinguishers in the home, and if they are the disposable type, replace them every couple of years. Carbon monoxide detectors are not a statutory requirement, but they are useful, Garriss said. "If you have any gas-fired appliances, you should use one."
Generators: Never use a generator or grill or anything that emits carbon monoxide inside a space, in a home or too close to the home. Fumes can seep into the house. Because carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, you don't know you are inhaling it until it is too late.
Candles: "Candles are pretty and they smell great, especially around the holidays," Garriss said. But if you use candlesticks "make sure they are in a firm, solid base and use a globe around them so that when they melt down or if they fall over, the candle hits the globe," he said. Never go to sleep while candles are burning. The Red Cross does not recommend using candles for lighting, Brown said. Use a flashlight instead and have an ample supply of batteries stored nearby.
Fireplaces: Before using the fireplace this winter, have the chimney professionally cleaned, Garriss said. Make sure the fireplace has a screen so that people, especially children, can't get too close. And never leave a fire unattended for a period of time. Wood-burning stoves should have 3 feet of clearance, Garriss said, and are best used on ceramic floors rather than carpet or wood. Also, make sure your appliance is third-party tested.
Stoves/ovens: "Cook outside, not in your garage," Garriss said, noting the number of turkey-frying incidents that occur each Thanksgiving. If you are cooking in the kitchen (not frying turkey), do not leave food unattended. If you leave the kitchen, even for a short time, turn the stove off. Keep anything that can catch fire such as pot holders or clothing away from the stove. And never leave the oven door open as a way to heat a room.
Space heaters: Garriss prefers ceramic disc heaters. "Any time you have a space heater there should be a 3-foot clearance," he said. If you have small children, use a cage guard for added safety.