Johnson City

Check before firing up your heater

Winter heater safety

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Colder weather is moving into our area and some of you may be turning on your heaters for the first time since last winter, but there are some things you need to look out for.

Fall is when we start seeing smoke coming from chimneys, temperatures start to drop, and fires from heating equipment failure. "People tend to forget the heaters are there so they stack and store things and arrange furniture, fixtures, and decorative things are too close to the heaters," says Johnson City assistant fire marshal Lori Ratliff.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2010 there were more than 57,000 fires from heating equipment and almost 500 deaths in the U.S. That's why Ratliff encourages people to go through and check their homes "Make sure that anything they're using for heat is at least three feet away," says Ratliff.

If you have a chimney Ratliff says you should get a chimney sweep before using it for the first time to remove build-up. "If there is a liner in there and it just needs to be cleaned or there is no liner in an older house, that could have build-up in the structure of their home and cause their home to catch on fire," adds Ratliff.

If your home has baseboard heaters, Ratliff says to keep a close eye on them and keep things away from them. Some of them in older homes don't have an 'off' switch. "If yours doesn't have an off button, it's not turned off; its just on low. At night it could kick on and you might not know it," says Ratliff.

Some people use space heaters to create extra heat. Lowe's Associate Store Manager Jeremy Christian says to check the cords and make sure there aren't any cuts on them that could spark a fire.

Christian says the newer-model heaters have better safety features. "All of our portable heaters do have [a feature], when you tip them over they cut off automatically," adds Christian.

Ratliff wants to remind everyone to have working smoke detectors in their homes in case a fire does start from heating equipment.

We found out in 2012 the Johnson City Fire Department had 21 heating equipment-related fires, Kingsport had 19, and in Bristol, Tennessee firefighters had 16 fires related to heating.

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