Arctic blast leads to concerns about safely warming homes

Published 7:26 pm Friday, January 6, 2023

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

The frigid temperatures Crenshaw Countians endured over the Christmas weekend made citizens reconsider the ways to best beat the cold. 

Fire officials are warning of the dangers from improperly heating one’s home. 

According to Bill McManigle, Luverne Fire Department Chief, there has been a downward trend in Crenshaw County when it comes to house fires during the holiday season. 

“I was recently talking with another local fire chief  about how we often have someone in the county (lose) their home  a couple weeks before Christmas,” McManigle said. “Thank goodness we didn’t have anyone lose their home this past year. 

“I think the public is becoming more knowledgeable about fire safety thanks to public service announcements and things that kids learn in school. So, that helps and knowing that most families have an escape plan  in case of a fire is comforting.”

McManigle said although the exact cause for holiday and winter  fires cannot always be pinpointed, he has seen many house fires in the past that originated from the improper heating of a home.

Chief of the Bullock Community Volunteer Fire Department, Harrison Weed said he recalled a house fire caused by improper heating. 

“We had a call to the home of an elderly lady who reported smoke coming from a power outlet in her wall,” Weed said. “Upon arrival, we found an electrical outlet that had melted and a charred wall. Thankfully the fire had gone out on its own before we arrived. The cause was from a small extension cord that was overloaded with a phone charger, heating blanket and a small space heater all plugged into it. The cord got so hot it melted and shorted out which caused the fire in the outlet.”

McManigle and Weed urge Crenshaw County residents to stay vigilant about fire hazards in their home year round, but they encourage people to take some specific steps to help cut down on the risk of a house fire during the winter months. 

– Never leave a space heater unattended. Make sure they’re unplugged/off and have cooled down completely before leaving them.

– Make sure space heaters do not have a frayed cord.

– Keep space heaters on a level floor.Never put them on tables, chairs, cabinets or other furniture pieces.

– Keep curtains, furniture and other flammable items at least three feet away from any heat source. 

– Prevent children and pets away from being near heaters or open flames.

– If using a fireplace, clean the firebox once a week during the months you’re using it. .

– Make sure the fire is completely out, including the embers, before leaving the house or going to sleep.

– It is also recommended to check filters and have central heating units as well as fireplaces inspected by professionals once a year. 

Both fire chiefs stress the importance of having working smoke detectors and testing them once a month. It is advised to change fire detector batteries twice a year regardless of their condition. Using a carbon monoxide detector if you heat with gas or a fireplace is also recommended. 

Crenshaw County Fire Association partners with the Alabama Fire College to provide free smoke detectors to Crenshaw County residents For more information, contact local fire departments..