Fire danger does not disappear in winter

This is the time of year chimneys start to get plugged up with creosote, and Kachemak Emergency Services is trying to help head that issue off before it becomes a real problem.

The agency issued a reminder that it has chimney brushes and rods that are available to be loaned out for free to anyone who needs them. Keeping chimneys clean, especially during a season of high use, can decrease the chances of them contributing to a house fire.

KESA alone has responded to four chimney fires already this season, said KESA Chief Bob Cicciarella.

There can be a misconception that fires are more likely to happen when it’s hot and dry outside. The risk of a house fire in winter, however, does not go away simply because it’s cold outside. In fact, winter can be a risky time because peninsula residents are more constantly using fuel sources to heat their homes, Cicciarella said.

“It’s usually based on the fact that people have heaters going,” he said.

Not only can clogged up chimneys be a threat, but Toyostove oil heaters, propane heaters or natural gas heaters can also cause problems if left unchecked. For starters, there should always be an area of three feet around any heater that is clear of flammable materials, Cicciarella said.

Checking machinery, especially vents, is also important during the winter as a way to make sure of avoiding carbon monoxide leakage into a home. It’s also never a bad idea to install a carbon monoxide alarm.

Though the holidays are over, Cicciarella said they can also pose a particular threat when it comes to fire, as more people are usually found burning candles.

“Pets can knock things over,” he said. “You never want to leave those going when you’re not around.”

Cicciarella also warned against burning one’s Christmas tree once it’s no longer needed, since dried-out trees tend to be very volatile when burned.

He said that when it comes to burning wood, the majority in the Homer area tends to be spruce. These are softer woods with a lot of sap, which is what causes the build up of creosote in chimneys, Cicciarella said.

“We provide them (the brushes) because we hope to provide an incentive to do that work on their chimney and keep it clean,” he said.

Cicciarella said he understands that not all residents will feel comfortable getting up on their roof to perform the work, and said there are a few options in town to hire a professional to do the cleaning.

To borrow a chimney brush or for more information, call the KESA office at 235-9811. The Homer Volunteer Fire Department also loans brushes. Call 235-3155 for more information or visit the fire hall on Pioneer Avenue.

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