Tips to avoid chimney fires and Carbon Monoxide poisoning this winter

Local News

State College, Pa- Cold weather can increase the number of house fires when homowners don’t use space heaters properly. But, other heating systems can also start fires or create harmful and lethal gas when improperly used.

WTAJ spoke with Chief Steve Bair from the Alpha Fire Company in State College to gather some tips on how to stay warm and safe this winter.

Bair says the most important thing to remember, regardless of the heating system you use, is to make sure you keep up with maintenance. He feels right now, locals are doing just that, keeping the amount of fires caused by heating appliances down.

“Right now we have are not experiencing an uptick, ” Bair said.

An uptick that Centre County is currently defying, compared to statistics from The National Fire Protection Association that say appliance fires increase every December, January, and February.

However, Bair says it’s still important to know varied safety concerns that arise when you seal up your home for the winter. One is Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

“Anything you’re burning to create heat will give off some kind of carbon monoxide… and if you’re appliance isn’t operating properly or your chimney’s plugged, then you can accumulate carbon monoxide in the home. So if you’re hunkered down in the house, you’re not changing air in the house…. then the ability for CO to accumulate is increased,” Bair said.

Bair says a carbon monoxide detector can help alert you to unhealthy and lethal levels of CO in your home.

Those who rely on wood fireplaces for heat have to monitor what type of wood they use. Limiting “green-wood” helps to keep creosote out of the chimney. 

What’s creosote?

“Creosote is bascally the tar… think of it as tar…. its the unburned products that are in smoke from the wood you’re burning in the fireplace. As that rises in the chimney and starts to cool… it adheres to the chimney lining. Eventually that’ll build up where it will close the chimney off or it will itself catch fire…. and once it burns it burns much hotter than the chimney is designed to handle, and that’s the problem,” Bair said.

The solution: make sure you have your chimney cleaned once or twice a year.

Bair says so far this winter there’s been three chimney fires in Centre County. He hopes that number stays where it is.

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