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Sunday, May 26, 2019

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Fire chiefs urge caution during winter

Fire chiefs urge caution during winter


With winter around the corner, local firefighters are urging residents to take steps to prevent house fires.

As temperatures fall, the threat of fire rises, local fire chiefs said.

“Our main concern is portable space heaters,” said Bayou Cane Fire Chief Ken Himel. “Fires often occur when they are placed too close to combustible materials. They are space heaters. Give them space. We recommend 3 feet in all directions.”

Traditional space heaters with exposed electric coils have also been connected with fires over the years when used improperly, said Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Benton Foret.

“For individuals needing a portable source for heat, the oil-filled heater is a more recent option available that does not have an exposed heat source,” Foret said.

Another source of cold-season fires stems from fireplaces, fire officials said.

“While these fixtures add a warm and cozy atmosphere to the home, residents are cautioned to only use fireplaces as designed,” Foret said. “For wood-burning fire places, follow manufacturer instructions on manufactured units, have the chimney inspected and serviced regularly and only burn wood like oak and pecan readily found in this area as fuel in the fire place. Woods, like pine, willow and other sap-filled woods can create deposits in the chimney and increase the potential for chimney fires.”

If a gas-fired heating system is being used, Himel strongly recommends using carbon monoxide detectors in addition to working smoke alarms.

“If a fire place is being used we recommend any type of spark arrestor and make sure the hearth area remains clear of combustibles,” Himel said.

According to the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office, fires have claimed the lives of three adults and four children since Oct. 15. The majority of those fires involved the absence of working smoke detectors.

Although fried turkey may be tasty, it also could be hazardous, Himel said.

“Although this is a south Louisiana tradition, it can be quite dangerous if improperly done,” Himel said. “Do not attempt this on wooden decks or patios. If a fire would occur, this could be disastrous. Stay clear of your home a safe distance to avoid fire spread. Do not over-fill your pot with oil and never attempt to fry a frozen turkey.”

Residents who have gas fireplaces, gas-fired stoves, ovens, water heaters, driers and other equipment should monitor carbon monoxide that can potentially accumulate, Foret said.

“Carbon monoxide is nicknamed the silent killer because it is undetectable to humans,” Foret said. “If a CO detector sounds off in a building occupants are to evacuate the building and contact 911. The fire department will respond and determine if there is a presence of carbon monoxide in the building and take appropriate actions such as isolating the device and ventilating the occupancy.”

Despite how tempting it might be during cold days, never use cooking equipment as a heating source, Foret said.

“Appliances are not designed for this type of use and prolonged operation can cause damage and failures of certain appliances,” he said.


-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 857-2202 or at Follow him on Twitter@DanVCopp.