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News Story Details

November 30, 2011

Winter Fire Safety/Alternative Heating Sources

With the onset of cold temperatures Chief Gerald Reardon and the Cambridge Fire Department offer the following cold weather fire and life safety reminders:

  • Be sure heating equipment is in good working condition. Have it serviced annually by a professional.
  • All residential buildings must be equipped with Carbon Monoxide detectors by January 1, 2007. (Certain transient residential properties such as hotels have until January 1, 2008)
  • Never use liquid fuel heating appliances like kerosene heaters in a home.
  • Make sure a chimney has been inspected within the past year before using fireplaces.
  • Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace opening.
  • Reduce or eliminate the use of electrical extension cords.
  • Keep trash and all combustibles away from heating equipment and appliances.
  • Do not leave burning candles un-attended and keep them clear of combustibles.
  • If there is a fire hydrant near your home make sure it is cleared after snowfall.
  • Test smoke detectors monthly. Consider replacing battery-powered detectors with hard-wired units.
  • Review escape routes, especially with children.
  • Avoid walking onto bodies of water that appear frozen. They can be extremely dangerous.


Alternative Heating Sources

In light of the anticipated high energy costs associated with heating homes this coming winter Chief Gerald R. Reardon and the Cambridge Fire Department urge citizens to be extremely cautious when considering alternative heating sources. Heating appliances are the second leading cause of residential fires in Massachusetts.

The marketplace is being saturated with products intended to augment gas or oil residential heating systems. Unfortunately some of these products do not meet the criteria that are in place to ensure that products are safe for use. Prior to purchasing make sure an appliance is listed or labeled by UL (Underwriters Laboratories).

In 2007 in Massachusetts there were 19 fires involving portable space heaters that resulted in 3 civilian deaths. The dollar loss of portable space heater fires from 2003 thru 2007 is in excess of $3 million. The use of extension cords with electrical space heaters is often a cause of electrical fires. Unvented kerosene heaters are illegal in Massachusetts because of the danger they pose. In addition to a fire danger they also produce deadly carbon monoxide gas.

Wood, pellet and coal stoves require a permit from the Inspectional Services Department prior to installation.

Homeowners should have heating equipment serviced by a professional prior to the start of the heating season. A professional also should service chimneys annually.

Carbon Monoxide detectors have been required in residential buildings in Massachusetts since March 2006. Smoke detectors should be tested frequently and escape routes should be practiced especially with children.

For additional information visit www.cambridgefire.org or contact the Fire Prevention Bureau at 617-349-4918.