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franklin county times

Awareness key to avoiding heater woes

By Staff
Jason Cannon
Franklin County Times
As the temperatures start to dip, many Franklin County residents will begin firing up their heaters.
Each year, various types of heaters are blamed for thousands of house fires and fatalities but Russellville Fire Marshall Bobby Malone said just a few quick and easy measures can be taken to avoid disaster.
"The number one thing is to make sure whatever heat source you are using is serviced or functioning properly," he said. "Central units or heat pumps should be inspected at least annually. If you haven't had an inspection, you need to have one before you turn your heater on."
Many homeowners are familiar with the smell that's omitted when you first activate your heat.
"That's just the heater burning off dust and lint," he said, adding that some caution still must be exercised. "Nine times out of ten, that's no big deal, but if you haven't had your heat pump serviced, that may be the smell of something more serious."
For families that rely on more old-fashioned sources of heat, Malone said a routine chimney cleaning is an absolute must.
"Creosote will build up in the chimney," he said. "That can block proper air flow and back the smoke up into your house," he said. "It can also start a fire in your chimney."
Space heaters have also become an increasingly popular method to warm local homes. However, if used improperly they can prove costly and sometimes fatal.
"Space heaters need a lot of space," he said. "You need to clear at least three feet from around them. Those elements get really hot and can easily start a fire if something touches them."
Space heaters' source of electricity is also a point of concern.
"You're really not supposed to plug a space heater into an extension cord, so you should avoid that at all costs," Malone said. "But, if you have to use one, make sure it's rated high enough. Most of the time a fire like this is the result of someone plugging the heater into an extension cord that can't handle it."
Regardless of the type of heat source you use, Malone advises all residents to check to be sure their smoke detectors are working properly.