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Hoosiers Urged To Avoid Dangerous Alternative Heating Sources
Updated November 9, 2015 9:26 AM
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(UNDATED) - With cold weather right around the corner, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security is warning Hoosiers to be safe when heating their homes. Every year, unsafe alternative heating sources are one of the leading causes of home fires and fire-related deaths during the winter months.

Two of the leading culprits are improper use of space heaters and using a cooking stove or oven as a heating source. Hoosiers are urged to make sure space heaters are kept away from flammable materials and far away from items like curtains, bedding or clothing.

"Space heaters need space," said Indiana State Fire Marshal James Greeson, "and we recommend they be turned off whenever the room they are in is unoccupied and at bedtime each night. We also recommend Hoosiers buy space heaters with built-in tilt sensors, so that they automatically turn off if tipped over. It's also important not to overload a circuit or power strip or run an extension cord under rugs."

Greeson reminds citizens that kerosene space heaters should always be refueled outside in a well ventilated area.

Wood stoves and fireplaces can be good heat sources in the winter, but Greeson says to use only dry, seasoned firewood to avoid the build-up of creosote, which can keep the chimney from venting properly. He also cautions against using any flammable liquid to start fires in fireplaces or wood stoves. Also closing the damper too early with hot ashes in the fireplace can lead to the release of dangerous levels of carbon monoxide throughout the house.

"It's vital to have a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room and equally important to allow ashes to cool before disposing of them," Greeson said. "Ashes should be thrown away in a metal container that is kept outside at a safe distance from the home."

Greeson urges those who use wood as an alternate heating source to have chimney flues inspected and cleaned annually.

And each year it is recommended that Hoosiers evaluate the condition of their traditional furnaces before turning them on for the winter. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates one in four furnaces has been in operation for 20 years or more, making it even more important that a trained professional evaluate a furnace's condition and operation.

For more tips on being prepared for winter weather, visit

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