Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls firefighters have been called to 27 chimney fires this winter.
The Lake City Playhouse caught fire after a space heater with a spliced cord sat too close to costumes and props.
A box pushed up against a base-board heater torched the Idaho Youth Ranch warehouse, causing $80,000 worth of damage.
“They’re all accidental fires but every one of them were preventable,” said Mike Budvarson, assistant chief for the Coeur d’Alene Fire Department.
With the frigid weather, fire officials are warning people to be careful about the methods they use to stay warm.
Space heaters, baseboard heaters and chimneys can be deadly if not used and cared for properly, they say.
In Spokane, one boy died and another was seriously burned Monday after a space heater started a fire in the shed where they were sleeping.
“Our biggest concern is that with the sudden cold people are going to use space heaters and not use them correctly,” said Kenneth Gabriel, Coeur d’Alene Fire Department’s public education coordinator.
One Post Falls family set its garage afire this winter after a space heater was set too close to cleaning solvents and rags, said Ramona Mobbs, fire prevention specialist for the Post Falls Fire Department.
“If they’re going to be using space heaters, they have to remember that space heaters are called that for a reason - they need space,” she said.
Mobbs warned residents to keep the heaters at least three feet from anything that burns.
And people shouldn’t use kerosene heaters because of potential carbon monoxide problems, Mobbs advises. If such heaters are used, make sure there is a window open for adequate ventilation.
Clothes, drapes, bedding and other burnable items also need to be kept away from baseboard heaters, Gabriel said.
The Idaho Youth Ranch’s warehouse was so badly damaged by the baseboard blaze they can no longer store items in it.
“It was terrible,” said Joy Jolliffe, manager of the Idaho Youth Ranch Thrift Store.
She said the employees didn’t realize the baseboard heater would catch things on fire since it hadn’t been turned on recently. It clicked on with the cold weather.
Chimney pipes and stoves should also be cleaned every two weeks when the weather is extremely cold, Mobbs said. Damp and poorly cured wood creates buildup inside the chimney that can catch fire if not cleaned out.
“The best thing to do is to build a small hot fire and not to allow the fire to smolder,” she said.
Residents can rent or borrow chimney cleaning kits from their local fire departments. If a chimney does catch fire, shut the damper immediately, Gabriel said.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: HOT ADVICE Make sure the heaters are “UL approved,” this means they have been tested for safety. Make sure the heater has a safety device that causes it to automatically shut off when tipped over. Turn space heaters off at night when sleeping. “They need to be watched at all times,” said Ramona Mobbs, fire prevention specialist for the Post Falls Fire Department. Do not use heaters to dry damp clothes.
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