The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

December 30, 2012

Ashtabula County fire chiefs offer safety tips

By WARREN DILLAWAY - warren@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

— Space heaters, Christmas trees and overloaded circuit breakers can all be a ticket to a fire disaster if they aren’t used properly.

“Be careful with your auxiliary heaters,” said Capt. Jeff Giantonio of the Ashtabula Fire Department. He said even electric space heaters can be dangerous if placed too close to flammable materials.

Several recent area fires have been caused by improperly used space heaters or overworked electrical circuitry.

“I remember back when kerosene heaters were big and people would put gasoline in them (and they would ignite),” he said. Giantonio said kerosene heaters are not used very often, but gas or electric space heaters can still be dangerous.

Circuit breakers are designed to provide safe use of electricity, but can backfire if too many items are plugged in to the circuit breaker.

Dale Arkenburg, a Geneva firefighter, said the department urges people to pay close attention to space heaters. “A lot of them aren’t supposed to be used 24 hours a day,” he said of manufacturer’s designs that are ignored.

People should also pay close attention to fireplace safety when cozying up for that romantic fireside chat. Arkenburg said it is important to make sure they are cleaned and used only to burn wood.

“We have had situations where people burn wrapping paper and garbage,” he said of a dangerous proposition that can start a fire.

Arkenburg said it is also important that people take their cars outside to warm them up. “They need to back their cars outside of their garages. We get a lot of calls for CO2,” he said of the potentially deadly practice.

Arkenburg also emphasized the importance of not overloading surge protectors. He said some people even plug appliances into the devices which can lead to a fire.

Common sense fire safety is important at any time of year, said Jefferson Fire Chief John Wayman. “Have an exit plan. Have your smoke detectors up to date,” he said.