The fire that destroyed this home in Argentine Township on February 9 was caused by a wood burning stove in the basement.

When it’s extremely cold out, like it has been the last couple of weeks in our area, it raises more danger issues. This is not only because we may find ourselves using

alternative heat sources in our homes, but also because the cold weather hinders the fire department, too, from snow-filled driveways to snow-buried hydrants.

 First, be sure to keep your driveway cleared to make it easy for emergency vehicles to access your home in the cold in case you do have an emergency. However, the real safety issues begin in your home.

 Here is a list of tips from Robert Cairnduff, fire chief for the city of Fenton.

When using a wood burner or fireplace, the chimney needs to be cleaned, and the frequency will depend on how much it is used. The more you use it, or burn wet wood, increases the frequency of it needing to be cleaned. A professional chimney sweep can evaluate it and determine how often you may need yours cleaned.

 When cleaning out the fireplace or wood burner and taking the ashes out, always make sure they are placed in a metal can outside of the home or garage and make sure to wet them down.  Never place them in a bag or plastic container and set them in the garage or up against the outside of the house.  Cairnduff said, “The embers can burn for days and we have had many fires over the years from people thinking the ashes were completely out and putting them in the household garbage can.”

 When using space heaters, always keep at least a three-foot distance from any combustible materials. Never use them near curtains or drapes.

 If your pipes freeze, you should use extreme caution when attempting to thaw them out.  The use of an open flame to thaw pipes is extremely hazardous and has resulted in many home fires, according to Cairnduff.

 Make sure to keep your dryer vent clear of ice and snow.  The blocking of the vent can cause the dryer to overheat and result in a fire.

 Cairnduff said, “The number one safety devices in the home during the winter are functioning smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. These devices are true life savers and every home should have them.

 Everyone needs to test their detectors and ensure the batteries don’t need to be replaced.”

Love thy neighbor, especially in the winter

 During the bitter cold of winter, it can be helpful to care about your neighbor’s safety, especially if they are elderly. Here are a few ways you can help your neighbor in this frigid cold:

•    Call (or stop by) during particularly low temperatures to make sure they have running water and heat

•     Pick up their mail for them

•     Visit them once a week

•     Shovel their walk or driveway

•     Offer to pick up their groceries for them when you are doing your shopping

•     Make a hot meal or two (or more) for them

•      Call or visit before a storm to make sure they have food, water, blankets, etc.

•     Offer to pick up prescriptions for them

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