Winter heating safety advice

Different ways to prepare for winter and stay safe. KOLO 8 News Now’s Ed Pearce reports.
Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 6:43 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -It’s a seasonal shift long known to firefighters. When the weather turns cold, home fires follow.

This time of year the Reno Fire Department responds to 5 to 7 home fires a week. They range in size and damage, but any fire in a home is a threat to those inside. And the reason for many will be our search for wintertime warmth using heating sources which we don’t think about until we need them.

“You want to make sure that we’re a little more vigilant this time of year,” says Reno Fire Captain John Beck, “We’re doing things that we don’t do much of the rest of the season so it’s important to keep those things in mind.”

Fireplaces and wood-burning stoves sit unused much of the year. Then when we need them we expect them to work. But, Beck says the whole system, including the flue and chimney, has been sitting unused and unmaintained and trouble may be lurking unseen.

“When you have flues or chimneys that become clogged or blocked with nests, debris or leaves,”>

Another danger is harder to see. As we burn wood a residue of creosote builds up in the chimney.

“That creosote is actually a fuel, so it can catch on fire. it can actually block the chimney itself.”

So, it’s a good idea to call in a professional chimney sweep before the cold weather hits. If you haven’t done it lately you likely don’t know what the inside of your chimney looks like and you might want to find out.

While we’re on the subject you should keep the fireplace or stove clean and dispose of any ashes in a safe metal container.

“Ash can retain heat for a long, long time. We’re talking days if not weeks. You get a windy day and all of a sudden you’ve got a fire. That’s what happened with the Washoe Drive Fire.”

Anyone who remembers that fire--one death,$4.5 million in damages--can tell you what a little wind with some supposedly spent ashes can do very quickly.