FIRE DEPARTMENT WARNING: Winter cold brings fire dangers

Freezing winter temperatures have prompted the Shelton Fire Prevention Bureau to remind everyone to hold fire safety in high regard. Fires tend to increase during winter months when hazards associated with cold weather increase, according to Ted Pisciotta, Shelton’s assistant chief for fire prevention.

Typical hazards include the use of alternative heating methods, attempts to thaw frozen pipes and the general increased activity indoors. In the United States, heating is the second leading cause of all residential building fires, after cooking. January is the peak month for such fires.

Adequate heat should be maintained in all areas with the use of well arranged and maintained heating equipment.

Here are some helpful tips to prevent an unwanted fire in a home or business from the Shelton Fire Prevention Bureau:

General heating

— A furnace should be inspected and serviced by a qualified professional at least once a year.

— Use temporary/portable space heaters that have been evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

— If temporary/portable space heaters are used, keep anything that can burn, such as bedding, paper and furniture, at least three feet away.

— Ensure the portable space heater has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over.

— Electric portable space heaters should be plugged directly into a proper wall outlet. Do not use an extension cord.

— Turn off portable heaters when you leave a room or go to bed (use reminders such as notes or timer to do this.)

Wood burning stove, fireplace

— Only burn properly dry and seasoned wood in a fireplace or wood stove. Never burn trash, paper, or green wood.

— A chimney for a wood burning stove or fireplace should be inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist. The leading cause of chimney fires is from built-up creosote.

— Ensure any fireplace is provided with a metal screen or heat-tempered glass, in good condition, and secured in position in front of the fireplace.

— Dispose of cooled ashes in a closed metal container, which is then kept outside a home at least 10 feet away from the house, wood deck, and any nearby buildings.

If heat is lost

— Safely prevent pipes from freezing by running water, using alternative heating in a safer manner, and promptly making repairs to the primary heating system.

— If pipes do freeze, special care should be taken in thawing them. Open flames should never be used to thaw a pipe.

Clothes dryers

— With increased use of clothes dryers, be sure to have proper ventilation and   to prevent lint build-up in the ventilation system. Never leave a dryer running unattended.

Finally, as in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of a home, test them monthly, and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries. Be sure everyone in a household knows when and how to call 9-1-1 for help. And remember to practice a home escape plan.

For more information, call the Shelton Fire Prevention Bureau at 203-924-1555 or check the web under “Public Safety” at