WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – In the event of power outages during the looming Nor’easter, local police and firemen remind residents to operate their fireplaces safely and to not use it continuously to heat their home.
If a fireplace is left on all day, the chimney could start to fail or the mortar could break down and get behind the brick and into the walls, said Mount Kisco Fire Chief Tom Jackson. That fire can also go undetected and cause an even larger problem.
While it hasn’t been a regular problem, Jackson said a lot of people resorted to using their fireplaces for heat after Hurricane Sandy when some lost power for more than a week.
Peekskill Police Chief Eric Johansen also recommended residents get their chimneys cleaned at least once a year. Chimney fires are common this time of year because of obstructions like birds nesting or wood that’s not properly seasoned, he said.
Fireplace wood should be seasoned – which removes the moisture and sap from split wood – for at least six months. When wood that isn’t properly seasoned burns, it can leave behind flammable residue that attaches itself to the wall of the chimney, Johansen said. This could also start a fire.
Another common fireplace hazard during the winter is the disposal of ashes. Ashes should always be placed in a metal container with a lid and put outside as far away from the home as possible. They must never be co-mingled with regular trash or left on a porch or near the house because a simple breeze could send an ember flying and it could catch fire.
Lastly, fireplaces should have glass or screen doors on them that remain closed to prevent hot embers from popping out onto flammable items like a rug.
Larchmont Fire Captain John Caprelli urges residents to regularly replace the batteries in their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors before operating a fire place or wood stove so that you know there's no carbon monoxide build up.
Here are a few more tips from the experts:
- Maintain battery-operated flashlights and radios and never leave candles unattended
- Fill your freezer with ziplock backs of water to keep your refrigerator cool
- Keep generators outside and away from any windows to prevent exhaust from getting into the home
- Clear a 3-foot area around any fire hydrants on your property
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