Big Bear Valley, CA, October 10, 2013 – With winter weather upon us, the County Fire Department is reminding us that accidents with fireplaces and heating equipment are a major cause of preventable home fires.

Here are some fire safety tips as you heat up the house:

· Change furnace filters to keep equipment running efficiently and safely.

· Keep space heaters at least three feet away from furniture, walls, curtains, or anything that burns. Turn them off when you leave home or go to bed.  Contact the Gas Company or a heating contractor if you suspect that your heater is not functioning properly.

· Make sure furnace vents, especially floor vents, aren’t blocked.  Furniture and drapes placed over heating vents can catch fire.

· Have your chimneys inspected and cleaned by a professional before each heating season.

· Be sure to have a proper spark arrester on all chimney tops. Screen openings should be no more than a half-inch—a quarter-inch if you live next to a wilderness area.

· Never use a fireplace during high winds, especially if you have a wood shake roof.

· Make sure tree branches are cleared at least 10 feet from the chimney opening.

· Store paper, kindling, and other flammable material at least three feet from the fireplace.

· Store cooled ashes in a tightly sealed metal container. Even apparently cool ashes may contain enough heat to ignite containers made of cardboard, paper, or plastic.

· Be sure that you have a fireplace screen large enough to block flying embers and rolling logs from escaping onto your floor.

· Never burn trash, paper, or green wood in your fireplace. These materials cause a combustible build-up on the lining of your fireplace that may eventually catch fire, possibly damaging the chimney and threatening your home.

· Make sure that any fireplace fires are completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.

· Never use a charcoal-burning barbecue or heater indoors!  When burned indoors, charcoal produces deadly amounts of carbon monoxide gas that is odorless, tasteless, and invisible.

Also, make sure your home is equipped with working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. Don’t forget to install, test, and maintain these devices in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. An approved smoke detector with fresh batteries doubles your chances of surviving a fire in your home.