Winter warnings to avoid house fires
A Dec. 8 fire at Oak Hills Christian College began because of improper disposal of ash.
The college is not alone.
According to Fire Chief Dick Sather, many wintertime fires are due to ash that is discarded into a flammable containers.
"Ashes from the fireplace should never be placed in plastic or cardboard containers," Sather said. "It should always be placed in metal containers and removed outdoors."
Even if it has been three days or longer since a fire was in the fireplace, Sather warns that the ashes could be, and likely are, still warm.
Thus, the ashes should always be placed in a metal container and taken outside, away from the house.
"Don't leave them inside," he said.
At 11:27 a.m. on Dec. 8, 23 firefighters were called to Oak Hills to extinguish a fire in the boiler room. Firefighters were at the scene for two hours. The fire, Sather said, was due to ash that had been discarded into a plastic container.
Winter also brings about warnings about candles and space heaters.
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, more than 400 fires were due to candles, fireplaces and electric heaters in 2006, costing Minnesotans in excess of $3 million.
The North Star Chapter of the Red Cross in 2005 dealt with 27 fires. In 2006, the number jumped to 47, and in 2007, there have been 49 fires to date. The local chapter provides assistance to the people of Beltrami, Clearwater, Cass, Hubbard, Lake of the Woods and Roseau Counties.
Open flames are the third-leading cause of structure fires, according to the Department of Public Safety.
"It's not difficult to believe that heat and flames start fires," said State Fire Marshal Jerry Rosendahl in a press release. "But the question is this: Was it the candle or the person who placed it that caused the problem? Was it the space heater or the one who tossed a jacket nearby that set the stage for disaster?"
When burning candles, Rosendahl said they should always be in stable containers in a spot where no one might tip them, reach across them or place combustibles nearby.
Candles should never be left burning unattended - they always should be extinguished when you leave the room or the house.
Candles enclosed in glass are not exempt from this rule, Sather said. When getting low, the glass has been known to break, and the flame is then out in the open.
When it comes to electric heaters, Rosendahl urges the public to make sure the heater has a UL label, which assures that it has been inspected by an independent testing lab.
Heaters should always be plugged into a grounded outlet and should never be attached to an extension cord.
Additionally, all furniture, clothing and other flammable material should be kept at least 3 feet away from the heater.
The heater should always be turned off when you leave home or turn off the lights.