Idaho Falls Fire Department

Heating & Electrical Safety Tips

Idaho Falls, ID:   The Idaho Falls Fire Department has responded to an increased number of heating and electrical fires recently and would like to take this opportunity to remind the community of some important safety information.

We all like to snuggle up to a warm fire or space heater during the cold winter months, but heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fire deaths.

“I’ve responded to at least two fatalities over the years from people using propane tanks or construction heaters containing combustible fuel inside their homes,” states Idaho Falls Fire Marshal Scott Grimmett. “Heat sources such as these remove the oxygen out of the air and replaces it with carbon monoxide. They should only be used in ventilated spaces with air flowing through them. They are not to be used indoors,” explains Grimmett.

Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet from the heat source, especially children and animals. Portable heaters should be operated according to the owner’s manual and shut off when leaving the area.

“We’ve seen several instances where people are using space heaters as a permanent heat source,” states Grimmett. “Space heaters should only be used as a temporary heat source and are unsafe for prolonged periods. Using them throughout the home as a permanent heat source, in place of regular utilities, may overload the system and is dangerous.” When using a space heater, it is recommended that only one heater be plugged into a GFI outlet at a time. The heaters should not be used with an extension cord.

Heat tape is a flat plastic tape with an electrical element inside it that is often times used under mobile homes or wrapped around other structures. This heat source should be checked frequently to ensure it is working properly, replaced periodically and used according to the owner’s manual.

Grimmett also recommends an uninterrupted flow of electricity through extension and appliance cords. “Coiling and zip tying cords causes resistance heating and pooling of the electricity and is unsafe.”

As far as fireplaces are concerned, making sure they are covered by a sturdy screen will prevent sparks from flying into the room.  Ashes should always be cooled before placing them in a metal container that is kept a safe distance from the home. Chimneys should be inspected regularly to make sure they remain clean of creosote and are structurally intact.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in an estimated 47,000 home structure fires reported to U.S. fire departments in 2014. These fires caused 520 deaths, 1,250 injuries and $1.4 billion in direct property damage.

Here are some other important safety tips from the NRPA:

  • Have all electrical work done by a qualified electrician.
  • When you are buying or remodeling a home, have it inspected by a qualified inspector.
  • Only use one heat-producing appliance (such as a coffee maker, toaster, space heater, etc.) plugged into a receptacle outlet at a time.
  • Major appliances (refrigerators, dryers, washers, stoves, air conditioners, etc.) should be plugged directly into a wall receptacle outlet. Extension cords and plug strips should not be used.
  • Arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) shut off electricity when a dangerous condition occurs. Consider having them installed in your home. Use a qualified electrician.
  • Use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to reduce the risk of shock. GFCIs shut off an electrical circuit when it becomes a shock hazard. They should be installed inside the home in bathrooms, kitchens, garages and basements. All outdoor receptacles should be GFCI protected.
  • Test AFCIs and GFCIs once a month to make sure they are working properly.
  • Check electrical cords to make sure they are not running across doorways or under carpets. Extension cords are intended for temporary use. Have a qualified electrician add more receptacle outlets so you don’t have to use extension cords.
  • Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the lamp or fixture. There should be a sticker that indicates the maximum wattage light bulb to use.

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About Idaho Falls Fire Department:  The mission of the Idaho Falls Fire Department is to protect the lives and property of the citizens and visitors of Idaho Falls by providing the highest possible levels of service through fire prevention, public education, fire suppression, emergency medical services, and mitigation of the effects of natural and man-made disasters consistent with the resources provided as desired and dictated by the citizens and elected officials of the City of Idaho Falls. The department serves the City of Idaho Falls and the Bonneville County Fire Protection District. In 2015, the department provided an unmatched level of service at 4,011 engine responses and 8,666 ambulance calls.  Learn more on our website.