How to keep fire safe this winter

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Evergreen Fire Rescue – ways to keep you and your family safe this winter
During the winter season, fire departments see an increase in house fires. Our small Evergreen community has seen six homes damaged or destroyed during the months of November and December.  There is a common cause theme: the way people heat their homes and the use of heating devices.  
For example:
The Corral Creek fire points to a free-standing propane stove.
The Meadow View fire was caused by firewood stacked too close to a wood-burning stove.
The LaMasters fire was caused by fireplace ashes put into a trash container.
The Kingsbury fire, although still under investigation, points towards a wood-burning stove.
The Meadow and Northwood fires that occurred just hours apart last week were caused by chimney fires.  
And while not in our community, the incredibly tragic loss of three children and their grandparents in Connecticut on Christmas Day was caused by improper ash disposal. We can learn from our neighbors and become more vigilant as we continue through the winter months.  
Here are a few suggestions to keep your home and your family safe:  
If you are using a wood fireplace, have the chimney cleaned and inspected each year.
Fireplace ashes need to be disposed of properly. See www.evergreenfirerescue.com for an article on proper disposal practices.
If you are using any heating appliance, ensure that there are no combustibles close by.
Free-standing electric heaters can tip over; extension cords should never be covered by a rug.
Heat tape should be inspected annually and replaced based on manufacturers’ recommendations.
Furnaces and hot heater appliances should be periodically inspected. This is especially important with the potential for carbon monoxide gases within the home.
Smoke detectors annually save lives; check your detectors at least once a month to ensure they are working, and replace the batteries every six months.
As a firefighter and fire investigator who has investigated more than 100 fires, these are a few simple things that go a long way toward prevention.  Again, on our website, www.evergreenfirerescue.com, there are many links and suggestions of ways that can help us all be safe during 2012.
You owe it to yourself and your family to take a look.


Jeff Ashford is operations chief for Evergreen Fire/Rescue Fire.