INDIANAPOLIS — With temperatures expected to drop over the next couple of days, the heat is on for many Hoosier households.
“As the weather gets colder, people are trying to stay warm,” said Aleatha Henderson, Indianapolis Fire Department.
The demand to stay warm is prompting warnings of how to safely heat your household. Officials said simple and common mistakes have resulted in fires, triggering costly, as well as deadly, outcomes.
“Those types of fires always increase during the winter months or in the colder months,” said Henderson.
One of the most common mistakes, officials said, is misuse of space heaters.
“If you’re relying on a space heater for supplemental heating make sure that you’re plugging those into the wall and not a power strip,” said James Michalisko, Pike Township Fire Department. “They have a tendency to overload power strips.”
Officials also recommend giving at least 3 ft. of space, free of any combustible materials or items, for the space heater to operate. Make sure to also keep the device away from children or pets, who may accidentally bump into it.
Michalisko said newer models include features that help prevent accidents, such as knocking it over, from turning into fires.
“The newer space heaters actually have a tilt safety feature, so if that heater senses it’s being pushed over, it actually shuts off,” he said.
“If you’re using a fuel burning type of space heater, you want to make sure that you always refuel those outside,” said Henderson. “You want to make sure that it is approved for indoor use, and if you have to refuel it, make sure you do that outside after it has been cooled down.”
If you’re using a furnace or fireplace, get them checked by professionals. Officials said poor maintenance and upkeep have also resulted in causing fires.
“It’s a good idea, if you’re a homeowner or you rent your property, to have a certified HVAC technician come in and service or clean your furnace,” said Michalisko.
“If you’re using a fireplace, you want to make sure that you have your chimneys swept, that you’ve had it inspected for the year,” said Henderson. “Often times, we’ll have fires that are related to the chimney insulation not quite being up to standards, or there’s a crack in it, or there’s some issues.”
When using your fireplace or other heating appliance, Henderson said people should be mindful of dry decorations that may be nearby.
“Give them space for anything that has a frame or that can heat up. So don’t put those dry flowers on top of the mantle if you’re going to use your fireplace,” she said.
There are several alternative methods people can use to heat their home, but officials said it’s important those methods are approved and vetted as safe. Officials urge people to avoid using ovens or stoves for warmth as they could release toxic fumes into your space.
“Especially gas stoves will emit fumes that can be deadly, and that can harm you or make you sick,” said Henderson.
“If you’re struggling financially, and you can’t use your furnace, or you don’t have a space heater, do not use your oven,” said Michalisko. “Those aren’t designed to heat a household or residence.”
If you are financially struggling to heat your home, Michalisko said Pike Township residents can reach out to the trustees office for assistance.
With the reminders of heating safety, officials continue to stress the importance of having working smoke detectors in your home. Some agencies, like the Indianapolis Fire Department, offer programs to install them for free or you can call (317) 327-6093.
While people use candles more for decoration than heating their home, officials also urge residents to be conscious of indoor use to prevent accidents, especially with the holidays near.
“Making sure that the wicks are trimmed down. If you’re using them in pumpkins, things like that, we would recommend that you use an electric, battery-operated candle,” said Henderson.
Lastly, if you’re using an alternative method, like a space heater, turn it off when it’s time for bed, and don’t leave open flames, like a burning candle, unattended.