Home is where the hearth is; keep it safe this winter

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In spite of the central heating system in your home, some rooms might seem a little cooler than others.

Here are a few options for keeping extra warm this winter; just make sure you are familiar with the manufacturer's instructions and use these items safely.

Propane and kerosene heaters. Inspect the exhaust parts for carbon monoxide buildup and be sure the heater has an emergency shut off in case the heater tips over.

Make sure the room the heater is in has plenty of ventilation. Burning fuel such as kerosene or propane can produce deadly fumes.

Keep kerosene or other flammable liquids stored in approved metal containers outside of the house.

Wood stoves. Be sure the wood stove is installed properly. It should be 3 feet from combustible surfaces and have proper floor support.

The stove should be burned hot twice a day for 15 to 30 minutes to reduce the chance of a chimney fire.

Do not use flammable liquids to start or accelerate any fire.

Electric space heaters. The use of space heaters or portable heaters is growing because they are economical and easy to use. Although portable heaters are designed to be safe, if used improperly, they can cause fires, burns, explosions or electrical shock.

Space heaters should be at least 3 feet from furniture, walls, bedding, etc. and never leave a heater unattended.

Look for a listing by a testing lab to insure certain safety standards.

Look for space heaters that have automatic turn-off switches should the heater get too hot, and sensors that will also turn off the heater if it tips over.

Don't use your heater as a dryer. Keep clothing and other combustibles a safe distance away.

Fireplaces. Keep your fireplace in good condition. Have your chimney inspected each season for cracking or deterioration. Repair any loose mortar or bricks.

Clear the area around the hearth. Always keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace opening.

Make sure the damper is open before you begin to build a fire in the fireplace.

Choose the right fuel. Hardwood such as oak and hickory burn cleaner than soft wood (pine, cedar, etc).

Never burn wrapping paper or glossy magazine paper, as these materials can cause an explosion.

Never overload the fireplace with too many logs, and stack the logs at the rear of the fireplace when building a fire.

Never close your damper until you know the fire is out. A closed damper will enable the fire to heat up again if there are hot ashes and will force toxic carbon monoxide into the house.

Stay warm this winter, and stay safe too.

Cinda Seamon is the fire and life safety educator for the Town of Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue.

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